Because "it's impossible to get into States these days," all of the lucky chosen (or privileged elected) participants take their training VERY seriously. I half-tried to put my everything into this race, but mid way through the block, I was behind, tired, and pretty effing sick after working too much. Sure, I was determined and diligent with the training, but I didn't have an outstanding training block that all the participants dream of having. I have concluded: crushing training and work and social life is an endurance race in and of itself. I did all three mediocre.
Feb, March, and April had lots of morning road runs in the dark with my neighbor training partner who has since moved on to become a PT. April started a couple long runs. Momentum was solid, then I was sick for 10 days. I still managed to pull out a Zion Traverse which was great, but pretty miserable during. The Wasatch had a big snow year, so I feel like I didn't even get any good dirt days until late May around State's training camp. Add a fairly hefty work travel schedule, and I had plenty of excuses if my race day went south. At the end of it though, I put in the work -- not the best I could do, but work nonetheless -- and I was at least satisfied. Starting about 8 days before the race, I was a pretty nervous wreck. I didn't have any of my logistics sorted, I had all my friends going to Squaw, and I felt like my head wasn't even in the game. I even left my pack at home, which happened before the debacle of SD100 back in 2016.
So, on one leg I was fit enough, and on the other hand I was so not ready. At points during the spring I actually forced myself to stop thinking about States because I couldn't handle the emotions. I had two solid 6+ hour "runs" on top of States training weekend and the Zion Traverse, so I was at least ready to make it to the finish.
The Race -- High Country
Expectations were far exceeded in the high country. It was so pretty, and so not crowded like I thought it would be! I started up Escarpment with a pack of what seemed like 20 professional women ultrarunners, and I was happy to be in that company. After walking/jogging with them for a bit, I found their effort inconsistent, so I consciously geared-down and hiked behind them. (Spoiler: the runners do well at Western States. The mountain people just survive.) The top of escarpment was a phenomenal sunrise with so many people. I was finally doing the thing after seven years. "I'm running Western States!"
The ladies blasted the backside of Escarpment once we hit dirt. Bummed that I wouldn't be running with them, I knew to run my own race, despite wanting to run with the stars. The next 10ish miles had a fair number of snow banks to go up and down. I was having fun and running well on it, unlike a lot of the people around me (thanks, long Wasatch Winter). It was impossible to get a rhythm, and the course seemed contrived with avoiding the banks, then going up and over them, then switchbacking on flat ground, etc. When the snow patches started thinning out, I started getting passed by a hoard of over-eager people. The first couple of aid stations signs said I was on 24 hour pace, and I was very surprised and slightly concerned considering I was definitely in front of the mid-pack. Some guy I went out of the first aid station with was sweating buckets -- 24 hour fever! I later caught him at the river.
The Quicksilver-run aid station (mile 15?) was chaos. There was an announcer that made me laugh. A guy with a microphone and amp in the middle of the national forest, what gold! I forgot most of the stuff I wanted to do with my crew, but they were peppy and excited, which was a nice boost. I commented to Alex Ho that "it's already a shit ton of downhill and the quads are starting to feel it."
Soon enough I was hiking up to Robinson Flat, very happy to be going uphill and hiking. Robinson was also chaotic but I took time to change shoes and get ice. I jogged it out with Corrine Malcom, F9.
|Out of the Quicksilver Aid Station, giving high 5s|
The Race -- Canyons
Before the race Glove told me to "squat behind Corrine," so I figured I was in a good spot and good company. I was happy to chat for a hour with her and a fellow named Henri from Hong Kong. It was so refreshing running with awesome people during a race. I don't know why, but recently races seem less and less friendly. Corrine and Henri both dusted me out of the next aid station, even though I couldn't've been there for more than a minute. I started getting sick of the downhill, but the miles were going by quickly, and all the sudden I seemed to be at mile 50. I was hiking really well with little relative effort.
A lot of people spend ample time talking about the canyons, but I generally enjoyed them. Probably because it wasn't excessively hot, and I seem to do more power hiking than running these days. I caught back up to Corrine, tried to run downhills slowly with her and another top lady, and enjoyed the hikes out. Michigan Bluff was a pleasant pit-stop, and the following section was spent completely alone, with which I was completely content. Soon enough I met Glove at Bath Road and everything was super chill.
The Race -- Foresthill to the River
Foresthill was super fun, and I knew it would be. The long straight stretch of road is teeming with people who cheered. Family was at Foresthill, snapped a pic, and Jordy joined the journey. I was starting to slow down, my stride was pretty short, but I was feeling durable and happy to be running with Jordy. We've shared so many miles, and seeing him at Bigfoot 200 last fall made my WS100 a walk in the park. We enjoyed Cal Street and ran a bunch with a pacerless runner who wouldn't pull. At Cal-2 I ate some tatertots -- the best thing I ate all day.
It felt like Jordy and I were just ticking off the miles, and again I was surprised at how chill everything was. I couldn't really push, but I was just fine jogging down to the river. In hindsight I was low on calories, but I was definitely the most lucid I've ever been at mile 75. I won't say that Cal-street with Jordy was all bliss, but looking back it was pretty damn "easy" and the 16 miles from Foresthill were a breeze.
The Race -- River to Finish
The river in daylight! I accomplished my mid-race goal, and was super happy crossing the river without a headlamp. I exchanged Jordy for Ezra, ate some pasta, and put on the life jackets. I've thought about crossing that river with a bib on so many times. It was over in about five seconds. The raft moved quickly when I was expecting a nice little break!
|The river! Technically dusk|
I hiked all the dirt road up to Green Gate, which, looking back, maybe I should've jogged a bit, to increase the intensity and set the tone to the finish. The walk was consistent but my heart rate was probably too low. The pace started to slow. I was 80 miles in, and it finally felt like it. Ideally, I'd be "fresh" and would have a nice 4-hour run to the finish, but it's never ideal. Ezra was a great sport all the way to the finish when I wasn't the happiest runner. My memory serves me being pretty quiet and trying not to complain. In reality I probably bitched incessantly. Which is true, EZ?
The 5.5 mile section out of Green Gate is BS that late in a race. All day the route is rather cruisey, then this section is hard to get into a rhythm. Headlamps on, I started to get a bit sleepy and lose time. We eventually hit the next aid, and I said aloud, "this is where it gets hard." Thankfully the next section was better, probably the best out of the last 20. Ezra and I rolled into the mile 90 aid station that had terrible vibes. They were playing really creepy Doors music loudly, the aid station people were absent-minded, and I wanted to leave ASAP but needed food. Looking back, my mood dipped here and I was probably pretty mad. I'm usually stoked to get into single digits, but it didn't feel like single digits this time, and I just wanted to be done. Somewhere on the trail around here I ate a very dry PB&J and had to swish it in my mouth with water to swallow.
I expected the last 10 to fly by, but man it was strung out. I know this part of the course well, but I couldn't lift my knees and was just pissed. Ezra and I mostly walked to Pointed Rocks (mile 94 ish) where I was freezing and told my crew that "I couldn't run." We pathetically jogged out. Thankfully Jordy had gloves.
Anxiety free for most of the day, I really dreaded the next section down to No-Hands Bridge. I remembered pacing Leif back in 2016 on this section and it feeling steep. I dreaded the downhill. I could take uphill all day, just please no more downhill. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as I remembered, but still slow. I got passed twice by people running well, which isn't ever a good feeling that late. Ezra was so good and patient on his section! Sorry for being a pain, dude.
I swapped Ezra for Earp at No-Hands. Like the river, I'd thought about crossing that lit-up bridge so many times over the past seven years. I envisioned myself running it, smiling and celebrating all the way to the finish. In reality, we walked. Earp was psyched but I just wanted to be done and had to apologize that I didn't care about his stories.
We tried jogging a couple short sections with little success. I got passed again. The section was so short to Robie Point and pavement, but I couldn't lift my knees to run. At the time I thought my quads were shot, but now I know my hip flexors were the demise. I didn't do enough actual running in my build. So be it.
Robie was cool. An aid station worker jogged down the hill a bit to grab my bottle so I didn't have to stop, then hooray, it's just a small hike and jog to the finish. The whole squad was there, and a blurry mile later, I was circling the track and crossing the finish line in 21:33.
After // Recovery
The whole process of Western States came and went so quickly. I didn't think much about the race before, during, or after. It just happened. It wasn't anticlimactic. It wasn't earth shattering. It was just a weekend with a lot of running and really supportive friends. Shout out squad, you know who you are and you know I love you.
The drive back to Sacramento that same night was miserable, and the whole rest of Sunday was a cranky mess. Monday was leaps and bounds better. I played recreational tennis six days in a row after States, which helped the legs. Fourth of July was a couples trip to the coast which was very fun but not restful. And now it's just another Monday, back at work.
I had a goal of breaking 20 hours at States. It's still very much possible, if I ever get in the thing again. 21:33 isn't that bad. But like Maddie once said during an April snowstorm training run, "it's not that great either."
My running ego finally died at Western States. Elan asked when, and I answered "at the pre-race meeting." The pre-race meeting is solely sucking up to people, and when they introduced about 40 sponsored runners and I was in the crowd, the ego died. I was just another face in the crowd. I could've been another crazed Western States fan, nobody would've known. They wouldn't know my last seven years and the journey I've taken to do this race. It was something like 50 races. Thousands of hours and dollars. Dozens of friendships. A lot of good times. The fair share of bad. And being just another face in that crowd...you know what? I was OK with it. Actually relieved. There is no fucking reason in the world to put pressure on myself. For anything.
Our Petzl yoga teacher always says, "This is enough. You. Are. Enough." Lots of weeks I think that is bullshit, that I will never be content, and that I should not be content; I should always strive for more, right? But at Western States, I was just fine being enough. Egoless.
I will still run, damn right. I will probably keep running 100s. Western States isn't everything. It is special. Fact. It also isn't the end. There are plenty more miles and adventures ahead...