Western States Endurance Run
Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA
Saturday, June 29- Sunday, June 30, 2013
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt
I post the above quote as a means to get started because the words above have been on my mind as the hours following the race turn into days and my mind wraps itself around the run. Had I the time and this report been written sooner you might have found yourself reading a report with a completely different tone, might I have waited even longer, perhaps yet an even more different tone. As it is, it's Thursday the Fourth of July and this report reflects where I'm currently at in the processing and evaluating of my efforts. The Western States Endurance Run held in late June in California was far more beautiful and far more challenging than I ever dreamed. As above noted there was a bit of error and shortcoming, in addition to inexperience on my part that has left me second guessing and replaying pivotal decisions and points of the race in my mind. The clearest thing I can tell you is that I loved this run and would return in a heartbeat given the opportunity once more.
Before I dive in to the nitty gritty details of my day long run that was really a weekend long, I want to comment on a point I read about in a blog or two before heading west. At least one person chided the Western States volunteers and organizers as being rude and even ignoring the non elite atheletes who came to run. I was worried about this and disappointed without proof that this may occur. Having now experienced the run myself I can say that this is simply not true. The volunteers, organizers, aid station captains, other runners, crews, and spectators were by far the most supportive of any race I've ever experienced. For example, Tim Tweitmeyer ran by us headed in the opposite direction at one point about mile 97 and said, very encouragingly "It's in the bag! Three miles to go in almost two hours." And Tim was also there at the awards ceremony to shake every finisher's hand as they received their buckle on Sunday afternoon. But that is just a glimpse into the kind of support and aid from the people associated with the run.
There is a lot to say about the few days before the race, but I'm going to try and keep this post to just the run itself. I will say that I believe I held it together in the final days better than ever before, I focused on knowing that the goal was completing the run and that given a chance I would use whatever I possessed to make that happen.
The night before the run I had my sister-in-law Sue, who'd driven up from Mesa, Arizona along with her son, Eli and brother, Scott to crew, to write a few reminders and words of advice along my arms: "Tree to Tree", "Eat like a horse, drink like a fish and walk before you need to" and "You will want to quit but you won't". These temporary inks along with some motivational cards and a letter I'd written mself would serve, I had hoped, to pull me through particaularly low points in the race.
The morning of the run I awoke to a 3:30 alarm after tossing and turning for about five or so hours. I dressed in my Aid Station jersey and Pearl Izumi shorts and headed upstairs to find my crew already embarked on their long and busy day. They were gathering supplies and had made me coffee and prepared two PB&J sandwiches for me to eat for breakfast along with some water. I knew I was up for a challenge eating when it took me the entire drive to Squaw Valley and literally wetting the second half of the second sandwich to finish this breakfast.
Arriving at Squaw Valley we headed to check-in where I got my official race bib and chip that went around your ankle and was weighed a final time. I was up three pounds from the day before, probably due to a large meal and lots of water the day before.
I wore my Injinji toe socks under a pair of Swiftwick socks and my Hoka Stinson shoes. The day before I'd bought a pair of Mountain Hardwear Gators and wore them over my shoes to protect against the sand and dust I'd been warned of prior to the run. In my shorts were a picture of my children. At the start I wore my arm sleeves though I really didn't need to and my Nike hat that I wore throughout that first day. I also wore my Mountain Hardwear vest equipped for the first time with a hydration pack. Along the rim of my jersey I attached my three ipod shuffles, they would carry me for less than thirty minutes of the entire race, a note I'm quite proud of as I have been known to listen to my ipod for entire runs lasting much longer.
Standing around in the dark at the start David Horton who we had seen a few times in the preceeding days came up hugged me, and told me to relax and run smart. Be patient he warned. I was not nervous per se at this point, just ready to be moving. Todd, Eli, Scott and Sue got to be with me right up until the start.
We started at 5 am on the nose and the crowd I was in jogged a short ways before the real climb began and then the majority of us took to walking. Gordy Ansleigh passed by me and I stuck near him for the first few minutes, I did run for about 100yds twice going up the first big climb, the biggest of the day, but both times I felt silly as others were still walking. I settled into hiking up the entire first climb to the summit which marks the highest point on the course. I met a man named Terry who was a good companion up that first steep climb as well as Lisa, a woman I'd met the day before at the race breifing.
Following the suggestion from Josh Gilbert that it may be a nice distraction I carried in my vest my small Nikon Cybershot and took pictures of the amazing sunset and views of Lake Tahoe. Terry and Lisa were good distractions going up the first climb but they pulled ahead as we entered the Granite Cheif Wilderness just past the summit. I didn't pick up the pace by very much but did start running. Unfortunately, my stomach troubled me immediately and there was nowhere to easily hop off trail as the terrain was wide open. I ended up having to climb up a short hill to hide myself from the pack. Terry and Lisa pulled further ahead and out of view.
I was running along this breathtaking scenery, trying to snap shots and take my mind off of running 100 miles. I kept repeating to myself "Be smart, be patient, relax, hydrate" over and over again. I met a lady named Annette who'd run the race twice before and we ran a ways together. There was no snow like is often the case but we had to run through some trenches where my feet got wet at about mile six. I didn't think it was a big deal, some people were being very careful to keep their feet dry but not me. Turns out I should have followed their lead.
I wasn't running hard at all, walking uphills regardless of steepness. I thought I was being smart and patient, hydrating well. Then going up to Lyon's Ridge Gordy passed me, this is awful to admit, but I berated myself a tad for this. I reminded myself once more that I was being conservative because I thought that was smart. Then Gordy took a tumble fifty yards ahead of me, he got up covered in a mess of sweat and blood, the man beside him remarked that he was going to freak the aid station volunteers out. I settled in behind him and repeated my mantra "Be smart, be patient, relax, hydrate". Then I met Jon Shark, a runner from Washington state so friendly and cheerful that it lifted me a tad. I contined to talk to runners around me and take pictures. I came into Lyon's Ridge, about mile 10.5, right behind Gordy and Jon. The aid station volunteers told Gordy he was running strong. Up until this point I'd eaten 9 PB crackers so I took out my empty ziploc sandwich bag and filled it with M&Ms, grapes, Oreos, and crackers. This advice came from Gordy Ansleigh at the panel discussion on Thursday evening and it was thanks to his presence at this aid station that I remembered to actually implement it. Leaving the aid station they hosed me down as the day was heating up already.
Taking off uphill I basked in the beauty around me and ate from my bag. I never saw Gordy again, I later learned he dropped at Foresthill. Running along the ridge it started to get warm and I focused on drinking more and more. This resulted in my having to stop and pee a lot which proved difficult at times as the ridge was wide open and we were still rather close to one another. But still I drank. I met a man named Tim from Baltimore who saw me taking picures like a tourist and offered to take my picture. We talked about Horton races. Then I met another man though I never caught his name we ran a ways together.
At the Red Star Ridge aid station I wasn't feeling great, it had gotten rather warm out and I was just kind of feeling blah. The volunteer assisting me took my picture with my camera and got water and ice in my bottle and ice for my hat. I put more food in my baggie but I'm very sorry to report that somewhere through the next section I lost my little bag. The section between Red Star Ridge and Duncan Canyon was long and hot, I had to keep stopping to pee which often proved troublesome and I was just in a funk. Then my camera, my favorite distraction of the morning, told me that the disk was full. I was out of real food so I ate my first GU of the day.
Finally I could hear the aid station sounds and knew that Eli and Todd should be waiting. I came into the aid station at about 10:45 and the aid station volunteers took my pack and bottle and filled them with ice and water. They doused me with cold water and put more ice in my hat. I ate a piece of watermelon and walked over to my crew. Todd forced me to take salt tabs, my fourth and fifth of the day and two tums as well as drink a Gatorade.
Then I handed Todd my camera and told him that it was full, "I need you to get me a new SD card and get this back to me."
"From where, Alexis?" he answered with a tone that sounded quite annoyed.
I knew he was possibly worried as I'd come into the aid station later than he'd probably expected and too near the 30 hour cut-off in his opinion. "From town? On the way to Dusty Corners? From Sue or Scott?" I suggested.
He gave me this look that was both worried and confused and I knew that I wasn't going to be seeing that camera again for the duration, "We're in the middle of nowhere, Alexis!"
"But I need that camera, I need the distraction!" I pleaded.
"No you don't, you NEED to RUN" he nearly shouted. I knew I was making him concerned, I handed off the camera and finished the Gatarode he was forcing me to consume and took another pack of crackers and some Clif granola bars for the road and ran off towards Robinson Flat.
Then with the help of the Gatorade perhaps or in spite of having lost my only distraction I actually began to run. I ran well, I kept drinking, I kept stopping to pee. I started to pass people and I even started to run a few uphills. I started to come alive, it was hot but I was for the moment OK. There were numerous creek crossings and I stood in them and doused myself with their cool refreshing water every chance I could. I was running well for the first time all day and I knew it. It was about the only high I had all day long and we're talking a day that lasted for nearly 30 hours.
Coming into Robinson Flat people were cheering and saying I looked fresh. I ran up to the scales to be weighed for the first time during the run. I took my vest off and handed it off to get filled and stepped on. I was up weight, up 1 1/2 pounds. A doctor asked me how I was feeling and I was so thrown off guard by being up weight that I fumbled over my words. They let me pass and I ate some watermelon and headed off in search of my crew. I found Scott and Sue and they made me drink another Gatorade but the weight was starting already to scare me. I didn't eat the salt tabs but I took the tums, some motivational cards for the journey and a PB&chocolate chip wrap for the road, nothing else. Leaving the aid station I heard Jon Shark call my name and we headed out together, I think we were both in good spirits.
We were running downhill through this next section but it was exposed and it was very, very hot. I reminded myself to make it through the day and be smart but being up weight instead of down was making me quite nervous. I'd been counting and I continued to count, I peed 11 times the first ten hours and over 25 times for the whole run. I've NEVER peed more than about three times in a run.
It was pretty much downhill or flat to Miller's Defeat but it was HOT! I passed some people but then I came upon a woman named Lisa who told me that she knew I was half her age and I was going to hate her for this advice but we had some tough climbs and hot canyons approaching and I better be careful. She may have sounded harsh but I knew she'd run the course before and was only trying to help so I backed off a little more. Coming into Miller's Defeat I got more ice in my hat and some in my bandana and was hosed off. I ate a hummus wrap and watermelon and headed out.
Somewhere along here I noticed that my feet were hurting. I made a note to ask at Dusty Corners for socks and Tums, but then I forgot to. This section is all but gone in my memory. I don't remember seeing Todd or Eli here because they pushed me through fast, all I recall is Todd trying to get me to drink a Gatorade but I only drank half as I was worried about the weight.
I ran on to Last Chance and my feet started to bother me more and more. At Last Chance I was hosed off, had ice put in my bra and hat and bandana before heading into the canyons. There was a lot of descending and I remember rounding a very scary drop off that literally made me hug the side of the wall. It was awesome running down into the canyons but they were not what I was expecting. I was expecting more like the Grand Canyon for some reason but it was far more variated with rocks and cliffs and trees. There was a while of descending and between my feet burning and the heat I decided to climb down a trail and into the water before crossing the bridge at the bottom and starting the ascent to Devil's Thumb.
I soaked in the water up to my chest for several minutes and then climbed back out to make my way up Devil's Thumb. This was in my memory the worst climb of the day. I passed people who looked like zombies and didn't respond to "how are you feeling", I passed people stopped and some sitting down. It was hot and slow and 36 switchbacks of carnage. Near the top I passed a man throwing up, it was absolutley horrible, the sounds this poor soul was making made me want to plug my ears. The terrible sounds he made stayed with me for the rest of the climb and really the rest of the day. Arriving at the Devil's Thumb aid station though I felt good other than my feet. The volunteers weighed me and my weight was perfect, between Friday morning and Saturday morning's weights. They got me a popsicle and ice water, they hosed me off and told me I looked really fresh and good. Standing still I felt really fresh and good. They gave me some vegetarian soup and sent me on my way.
I was running downhill and after a mile or so I realized I hadn't seen anyone. I started looking for streamers but there weren't any. There weren't any in hindsight because there wasn't anywhere else to go but I started to do the opposite of being relaxed, I started to freak out a little. I slowed and started looking back uphill for signs of approaching runners. I ran downhill more but now slower because I started to think about having to go back uphill if I was in fact headed the wrong direction. Then I stopped for a minute and no one was behind me, I hadn't realized I was running fast enough to get spread out. Then I may have started to get scared and a little teary eyed. Fortunately I was only stopped for a minute and I saw a runner coming downhill, it was safely patrol no less checking on runners and she assured me I was headed in the right direction. Right after that I saw streamers and then two minutes later a runner up ahead who was walking downhill, his quads were toast.
Running downhill again I was a little mentally worn down and now my feet were really hurting. At the bottom of El Dorado I let them soak me, drank half a cup of coke and headed back uphill. I was anxious to see my crew and the climb to Michigan Bluff, while not as steep as Devil's Thumb was longer and just as hard. I didn't make good time at all as my feet were starting to possess my every thought with pain in every footfall but especially in my left foot. I didn't want to run it hurt so bad, I was convinced I had a huge blister on both bottoms. However, my plantar fasciitis and achilles tendon which were troublesome in the left heel at the start were both feeling fine.
By the time I made it to the aid station I knew my feet needed serious attention or I was out. Eli was standing off to the side ahead of the crew and I yelled "FEET', in retrospect I was probably a little out of it. Todd said "what" and then the aid station volunteers were on me, I got weighed and told them my feet hurt. They suggested having a podiatrist look at them so I agreed. They brought me to a chair and took my shoes and socks off only to find my feet 'badly macerated' from the hot, wet conditions of the day. The lady helping me said it was the worst they'd seen at this point in the day and got her camera, commenting it was pretty gross and looked like brains on the bottom of my feet. But she said it was far enough from my heart I wasn't going to die. They let them air dry a few minutes before putting on powder and the new socks. As they were helping my feet Todd gave me grilled cheese and a coke and a man walked up with a Ten Days/1000 mile buckle. I jokingly asked if he came over to motivate me out of the chair with his buckle. I was still in relatively good spirits. I'd probably been sitting there ten minutes at that point. I got up soon thereafter but the feet hurt as much as before. But at least now I knew what it was.
I headed over to the rest of my crew, drank a little and got my vest back. They took my picture and headed on to Bath Rd at 7:47, I had arrived at 7:25, over twenty minutes had gone by at that aid station. My crew had given me two bottles leaving Michigan Bluff but I hadn't argued, one of them had GU brew in it, they wanted me to drink calories but I got sick almost immediately from the GU brew, having to race into the woods and tripping on a log with my oh so painful feet and stubbing a toe. I ran down to Volcano Canyon knowing I was running towards a pacer, but despite it being almost 8 pm this canyon was just as hot as some earlier in the day.
When we started moving uphill I saw a lot of pacers running in both directions from the aid stations looking for their runners now that it was after 8 pm. I was doing a fair bit of walking uphill and yet was seeing more and more people than in the previous sections on the course. Near Bath Rd I saw a man hobbling with a stick and safety patrol, his race was over. Then I saw Todd headed towards me, someone had told him he could head in now that it was near 9 pm. We stopped only briefly at the aid station to eat a few grapes and watermelon and head off to Foresthill.
By this point it was dark and we were using headlamps. The run from Bath Rd to Foresthill was easy and I was in decent spirits. We got there at 9:18 and I was weighed and given popsicles and saltines. I walked over to meet Scott who walked me to where the car and our little crew station was set up and I ended up passing off this food without eating any of it. At the car they had made soup and I ate a few spoonfuls but we weren't there long, only enough to get my big headlamp situated. Sue got a picture of us and we headed off into the night.
We had 38 miles left and about 13.5 hours, sounded easy enough. We started out on California St. Trail and I was following in Todd's footsteps but he was definitely running harder than my feet felt up to. The trail was rolling but mostly downhill and it shouldn't have been a problem, I'd been saving my legs all day for this part of the course, but I hadn't anticipated my feet hurting like they were.
And then, almost immediately, I started to feel overwhelmingly exhausted. And I don't know why but I allowed that exhaustion to go in and overtake me. I started thinking about how much I just wanted to lie down and go to sleep. I started expressing this to Todd and pretty quickly it escalated to me wanting to quit, just give up, which I swore going in I wouldn't do. I wasn't upset or emotional. I just wanted to sit down on the trail or be in a hotel on a hotel bed. Todd tried his hardest to get me moving, told me about the folks back home. I knew I was tired so I started to think about reasons I shouldn't quit or couldn't quit. I mean I thought of my friends, of the Aid Station, Jeremy, how disappointed Frank would be, how sad I would be, our kids, I was going through all of these thoughts and I just didn't care, I was numb from fatigue.
A few minutes into this walking and after a good dozen runners and their pacers had passed Todd all of sudden starts apologizing and says "Eat!" He starts telling me that he knows that I haven't eaten much of anything since Michigan Bluff and that he was just accepting that I was full but know he knows I'm not full. He tells me to eat a GU and a Granola Bar and M&Ms, and I do as I walk along and dream of the hotel bed I wish so badly to be in. As I'm walking along dreaming of my hotel bed I start realizing the quickest way to a bed is the car Sue and Scott have at Green Gate. And then I remember that I had read if you make it to Green Gate you can make it to Auburn and the next thing I know I'm running again. In retrospect Todd was absolutely right, as the day had worn on it had gotten harder to eat and I'd done a lousier and lousier job of eating. I was running now, but the feet were hurting as much as ever and I was still tired and I didn't know if I was really in this thing anymore or not.
Much of this section at night was just like this, a battle to eat and to run. I remember coming into an alien aid station and then back out and then into another aid station and being so tired I just sat down. Todd brought me soup and a sandwich and I remember this Irish man we'd passed coming into the aid station showed up and sat down beside me as I was eating, he was nauseous and dizzy. As our anxious pacers worked harder for us then we for ourselves we expressed how terrible we felt, how much we wanted this to be over. But I recoginized now that everyone out here was suffereing so I got up from that chair and headed back out.
In the next section my stomach started to give me trouble and I was stopping every five minutes of so due to trouble from it. Then I would try to eat more food and would have the strength to overcome the pain in my feet for a few minutes of running. Coming into the next aid station I sat down once more and talked to Will Jorgenson. There was a lady here who had been stung by 12 bees and they were just waiting to get her out of there. One of the aid station workers, I think the captain, came over to me and said that I looked too good and had come too far to sit in that chair and told me to get up and get moving.
We ran on but the tired was persistently present, the feet screaming and the distance yet to still travel far. Then climbing alongside the river to the Rucky Chucky aid station my right ankle started to bother me. This section seemed like forever even though we could hear it and kept thinking we were closer than we were. At the Rucky Chucky crossing near aid station I got weighed and told them I needed new feet. They asked if I wanted a message for the ankle and I accepted. This killed more time, a lot more time and I could tell Todd was not happy or in support of this, a well rested me would have thought the same. I was holding on hope that the massage would release some of the pain in the achilles tendon, unfortunately, it did not.
Todd made me get up and we went down to the river to cross with great cheers from both sides. We crossed by foot but the water which was promised to be no higher than our knees was up above my waist the whole way through and as high as my chest in some spots. It was cool and refreshing for the most part and would have been great fun had I not been miserable in body and spirit at this point. My ankle hurt more with every step.
Sue and Scott were waiting on the other side. We ate very little, a cheese quesadilla square for me was all. We saw Lee Conner here who I believe had been suffering with stomach trouble. She had picked up a pacer from someone who had dropped and left moving well up to Green Gate. Climbing up to Green Gate was slow and painful, the feet were wet again and it was the only time I got to be on course with Scott and Sue and I reveled in that. At Green Gate we changed socks again and I ate a little but can't recall what so it probably wasn't all that much. Todd changed batteries here too.
We were down to the final twenty and still had roughly 7.5 hours to do it. I went to the bathroom just after leaving the aid station and we were off. In this next section the ankle continued to get worse, I had more stomach trouble, more lows due to pure exhaustion and probably not eating enough. In addition to all of this my calf, the calf that has worried me for months was very tight, it wasn't locking up yet but it was just another factor in making me extremely slow and worried. The next five and a half miles took us nearly two hours, much longer than either of us anticiapted. I started to become very worried that at this pace I wasn't going to finish. Very near the aid station, at over 85 miles into the race, I had an emotional breakdown. Between my stomach, my feet and my ankle I was convinced that I wasn't going to finish even with a constant forward motion. I wasn't even crying but bawling like a baby, stepping aside to let others pass by me, wiping the tears and just at the bottom of everything. I really wanted to finish but was so convinced that I couldn't and wouldn't. The sun coming up on my second day, I was now over the 24 hour mark and we were leap frogging other runners.
At the Auburn Lake Trails aid station I weighed in at my lowest of the entire race, down two pounds from Friday mornings weigh in and over five pounds from the race start. I knew the day was to be as hot as the previous day so I focused on doing the one thing I knew I could still do, hydrate. I ate a few pancake peices and we headed out without dilly dallying, I was running (hobbling) scared.
My ankle was so painful, it felt like a constant stinging and was bringing me to bite my lower lip to begin each short running section, Todd joked that this was the 100 mile shuffle rather than a run of any kind. Running to Brown's Bar there was still more leap frogging which surprised me and at least one good run and one good low. It felt once more like it took forever, there was music coming into this aid station that you could hear much sooner than you were actually at the aid station. I again had stomach trouble but made it to the aid station to use their bathroom as it was not light out and hard to get off the trail.
We had a quick bite after my bathroom break and headed out with just over ten miles and just over four hours left, Todd was still convinced we could do it somehow in just over two hours, it ended up taking more than three. We met a few runners through this section but they were mostly moving faster than us. We made it to Highway 49 crossing. I was weighed and had put back on a pound or so and drank a cup of smoothie. We handed my vest off to Scott and Sue and went forward with just a couple GU and a water bottle.
A good portion of the way to No Hands Bridge was downhill and we managed to shuffle a bit though the pain was awful and the heat coming on. Coming into No Hands Bridge was absolutely beautiful but hot. We stopped for mere seconds at the aid station. My ankly, feet and calf were no longer giving warnings they were putting up a fight with every step. Along the way to Robie's point I had been shuffling along when the calf felt like a deep stabbing pain, I stopped dead went down on it and screamed words I won't repeat. It hurt so bad and moving forward at any rate was seriously beginning to scare me. Todd told me to look ahead and see the runners in sight of us, they were all walking, he remarked that it was the walking wounded headed towards the finish line at this rate.
It was through here we came upon Tim Tweitmeyer who encouraged me that I would finish but it was tough and there was a lot of carnage all around us. We were headed up the final climb to the aid station at Robie Point and there was a woman stopped getting sick with a volunteer or pacer holding back her hair. Usually I can find strength at the end of a race, but here I found myself with none, I felt like I was in a losing battle. A volunteer came to me and took my water bottle and filled it and brought it back to me so I never even stopped at the aid station but my mind was gone, it was only feet moving forward.
We rounded the turn at the aid station and there was Eli taking pictures. We had a mile and a half and an hour and a half to do it in. It's almost terrible to admit but I gave up the fight, pretty convinced I'd finish I allowed myself to walk up the long hill on the paved roads of Auburn. There were many wonderful residents strewn along wishing us well, telling us we looked great. Eli said Scott and Sue were at the top of the big hill so we climbed on to find them, when we reached them they ran along with us and Scott told me every detail of the steps ahead. He told me where hills would be and where turns would come, he ran right alongside me. We walked the final hill but then it was downhill to the track, surprisingly we came upon and passed Lee Conner in this section, I thought she would come with us when we encouraged but she just continued on walking.
I remember seeing the track a minute before arriving at the fence and just feeling like a robot. Instead of that overwhelming sensation that I had arrived, that I would finish, I chose to spend every ounce of energy seeing to it that I could indeed run the last section in. There was no crying, I just remember it being incredibly hot and the track portion seemed indecently long. I heard my name on the loudspeaker as I passed by and remembered that I hadn't submitted an "about me" form because I didn't think I'd finish. And just like that, I was done. I crossed at 28:49:05 for 100.2 miles.
It was over then. They gave me water and a medal and weighed me a final time, I weighed exactly what I had at check in Friday morning. I walked over to some buckets of ice and took my shoes and socks off. A volunteer who was spraying off my feet asked if I wanted to see the podiatrist, the podiatrist told me to avoid socks and wear flip flops I would be fine in a few days time.Then Scott went to get my flip flops from the car and Sue, Todd and Eli went to settle into the award ceremony tent and I sat down on the field of the Placer High School track and tried to soak in the moment. Instead of emotion a wave of exhaustion and soreness began to move in. I walked painfully to the tent where they were seated and I couldn't believe I'd finished the race I could barely walk now that I'd given my body permission to stop.
It was about this time that Sue gave me my phone and I started to read and reveice all of the congratulatory messages from my friends and family back home, this more than actually finishing the race, was honestly the highlight of the finish for me. I hadn't realized just how closely people were following my progress, hadn't realized that Charlie Peele and then others had posted the Ultralive feed for others to follow. Despite feeling like my legs were just going to fall off at the hip sockets I felt pretty high there for a moment.
For the next hour we sat in the shade in and out of sleep, Sue and Eli brought me breakfast and Todd water. David Horton came by to congratulate me and give me a hard time about eating and not being trained better, but there was also an honest happiness for me in his words. I remember when the final runner came onto the track the clock read 30:01, I remember that the crowd gathered under the tent, those runners waiting to receive their buckles and their families and crews, they all joined in giving the runner a standing ovation. He would not be buckled. Everyone of us felt it and it was then that the feat of what I had endured gently washed over me and the emotions briefly but greatly spread through me.
Shortly afterward Todd told me I could go spend a fortune in the Fleet Feet running store set up on the field that sold Western States gear. Call me an absolute fool but I wanted that bumper sticker that said 100.2. However, getting up and walking to the car proved entirely troublesome. Sue agreed to go with me but halfway to the car nausea and the pain in my feet made me sit down. She went to the car and got my wallet and it took me even longer to make it back to the track. I just sat down again. My feet hurt so bad I didn't want to walk the extra 200 yards to get my bumper sticker. A half hour later Todd helped me over to the store and I got a little bit of Western States gear. Literally I sat on the field and he graciously went through and showed me items. He was really sweet about it.
And then we moved back slowly to our spot under the tent and watched every runner, even some of those who didn't finish officially finish, get recognized for their acheivements. Every runner was asked to come up and individually receive their buckly. There were several people waiting to shake every runner's hand including Andy Jones Wilkins and Tim Tweitmeyer. I was really touched by that. And then I got 'buckled'.
Over the rest of the day the exhaustion and pain overtook me, I ate little and definitely didn't stay on hydration like I should have. By 8 pm we were all asleep in the hotel room.
The next morning I was feeling physically better already but the negative numbingness was already setting in, I should have eaten more, spent less time at aid stations, fought harder through the pain. Fortunatetly, Todd reminded me of this quote:
"Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don't forget when you leave why you came." -Adlai Stevenson
You see I went to Western States to finish. I wanted to see if I could walk willingly into something that completely frightened me, something that seemed impossible and then see it through. Looking back I can easily identify a mistake or two that was made, primarily not eating enough, not keeping my feet dry enough and spending too much time at aid stations but there was no mistake in my being there. I look forward to an opportunity to go back stronger, more self-assured and re-test myself against the High Sierras but for now finishing will do.
"For the Western States 100 is terribly honest in its demands and rewards. During these two-dozen hours in the wilderness we will be governed apart from the world of political favors, hidden agendas, and orchestrated cheers. Our number – which includes woodsmen, ranchers, nurses, investment bankers, mechanics and computer engineers – will all be measured on the same scale. We will test ourselves against the mountains." Antonio Rossman
I am feeling pretty good today, my muscles are at the surface recovered, my feet nearly so and my ankle waiting on a run to deliver the final word on its progress. In testing myself against the mountains I didn't come up as strong as I'd hoped, but I've yet to determine if it was primarily a lack of training, inexperience or a mental fortitude deficit. I do know one thing quite completely, I have at least another hundred miler in my bones though not one on the schedule...yet.
In closing I want to thank the Aid Station for their sponsorship, my friends and family for their support, my mother-in-law for taking wonderful care of our children and home while we were away, for my amazing crew, Scott, Sue and Eli who did more than I'm sure they really realize and for Todd whom without I most certainly wouldn't have finished as he kept me moving forward towards Auburn.