Saturday, June 28, 2014

Western States 100 2014 Race Report

On the third entry into the Western States 100 lottery my name was chosen to run the 2014 race.  I was happy to get the opportunity since there are many who didn’t get in even after 4 and 5 previous attempts.  As race day arrived I felt ready and properly recovered from many long hard weeks of training.

On the morning of the race it was in the high 30's at the start and I didn't even bring a long sleeve or gloves (It was supposed to be hot? Still, I am a jackass….moving on).  I mentioned to the volunteer handing out the bib numbers at 4:15 am that I wish I had gloves. 

He went to his bag and gave me HIS gloves.  I was surprised and not surprised all at the same time.  Ultra runners are like that, they will give you the shirt off their back or their gloves. He told me his name was Barry and that I should look for him at the finish.  This was a nice vote of confidence from a total stranger that I would make it all the way to the finish too.  (I didn’t find him there but was able to get his information through the RD and get them back.)

We took off running...for a short bit, and then settled into a nice power hike.  I started way in the back since apparently I was standing with the families and friends taking pictures!  The line didn't move and then I had to get around all of them.  Anyway, after the start I don't think I ran more than 2 minutes on the climb and passed 60 people maybe?

The view from the pass was amazing looking back at Lake Tahoe and then turning the other direction looking toward the west.  The air was still cool but it felt nice. The first quarter of the race ticked by without too much effort and the views were amazing.  I just focused on eating, drinking, and not crushing my legs on the downhill.  The rocks on the trail made it challenging and the tree cover was welcome although the shadows made it tricky negotiating the trail at times.

I saw Michelle, Tim, and Christine at Duncan Canyon (23) and Dusty Corners (38) then headed into the canyons for the big downhill and uphill sections.  The river crossing at Deadwood was awesome.  Normally you go over a bridge but since it is under repair we crossed in the river.  I passed a bunch of people on the climb up to Devils Thumb and Michigan Bluff.  I was pretty conservative on the downhill and just grinded the uphills.

I saw Michelle again at Michigan Bluff and was feeling great.  I breezed through Volcano Canyon and was running the uphill into Bath Road (60) for some reason.  I filled my own water and just kept moving.  There were two crew members who had hiked down to Bath Road from Foresthill and they were walking the uphill.  Again I was running for some reason...and I yelled out to them, Don’t make me pass you!!  They started running and then looked at each other like, Why are we letting this guy make us run?

I popped out on Foresthill Road and cruised into town feeling pretty awesome.  I think I was 25 or 30 minutes behind 24 hour pace at this point but I was determined to follow my plan and not panic.  I got to the aid station trying to get the crowd pumped up which was fun.  They had to weigh me in and I was so excited I about ran past the scales!

Michelle got me all set up, I changed shoes, and I was off with Christine who was going to be my pacer from here to the finish.  She and I have worked well together in the past and I had 100% confidence that she would help me reach my goal.

My #1 goal was to arrive in Foresthill feeling good.  The second part was to run efficiently from there to the river crossing at Rucky Chucky (78) so that after Green Gate (80) I could RUN to the end instead of death shuffling.  I have done that..not fun.

Around mile 70 at the Peachstone aid station I stopped to check a blister.  The dirt filtering into my shoes in the beginning caused a blister to form between my toes. I stopped and noticed it had popped and the skin was just hanging.  The AS worker talked to the doctor, who said he had a scalpel but that I would have to be the one to cut the skin off.  For liability reasons he couldn't cut me as it could be deemed 'surgery'.  SO I reached down, ripped off the loose skin in one swipe, and said now I guess I just need a band-aid. Do you have one?  And...we were off again.  (Thinking to myself)….Sorry, don't mean to be rude but I am in the middle of a race and don't have time to talk about insurance liabilities!  It was pretty funny. Christine was pretty surprised they would consider handing someone a scalpel at mile 70 after running for 16+ hours.  That could be a REAL liability.

We hit the river crossing at 78 and it is truly one of the coolest experiences ever.  The line is manned by volunteers and there were glow sticks in the river zip-tied to rocks so you could see.  The water was chest deep, cold, and felt amazing on the tired muscles.

We continued out of the water and right through the aid station on the other side.  The volunteers seemed bummed that we didn't stop but there is an aid station 100 yards before on the other side and Green Gate is a short hike from there.  I think they were more surprised that I didn't have/want dry clean clothes in a drop bag which a lot of people do.  We sloshed the water out of our shoes on the hike and quickly warmed back up on the uphill.

We saw Michelle and Tim for the last time at Green Gate and we were quickly back on the trail.  I felt like everything was going just about as good as could be expected at this point.  I got to Foresthill in good shape, ran decent down to the river, closed the gap on the 24 hour pace, and was now RUNNING, sans death shuffle.

When I got to Brown's Bar at mile 89 I finally caught up to 24 hour pace. Hal Koerner, ultra-stud and two time winner of Western States, was the AS captain and he was the first to greet me.  Dude, you are Right ON 24 hour pace! You have to go! Sweet, I think to myself while I try to graze the aid table....Seriously, you have to leave, NOW! My bottles were now filled and handed back to me while Hal had his hand in my back pushing me out.  I wish all the aid stations were like that (so did Christine!).  Late in a race it's comforting just to see other humans and you get lulled into staying for a few minutes...which add up when there are lots of aid stations.

Somewhere along in here I tripped over two GIANT half inch rocks.  As the day wears on they seem to get bigger and bigger.  Anyway, the first time I went down it mostly theatrical. Flailing of arms, saying naughty words, and nothing got hurt.  The second time there was flailing of arms, naughty words, I cracked my right knee, and pitched my water bottle over the edge of the steep trail.  I heard the bottle roll in the dry leaves and was sure it was a goner.  The trail is very steep on the downhill side but thankfully the bottle got caught in the underbrush.  Christine collected my bottle and I popped right back up.  This one must have seemed worse than the first one because she was surprised I got going so quick.  We were so close to the end I figured I would run what I could and deal with the consequences when I finished.  Truthfully, walking probably would have been worse. Staying moving didn't let it stiffen up.

After a long grind up to Hwy 49 (93.5) we made a quick stop kept on moving.  Just out of the AS there is a sign that reads SHORT CUT TRAIL.  I told Christine I wanted to go that way!  After a short climb we began an easy descent into No Hands Bridge (96.8).  Through here there is a spot where you are going through waist tall brown grass in a field surrounded by enormous oak trees.  I was thinking it was a few miles further and just after I was telling Christine we entered the field.  It was even beautiful at night!

No Hands Bridge is like an oasis in the desert once you can finally see it.  As you clear the trees on the downhill the bridge has been lit up with Christmas lights and rope lighting.  They had music playing and they must have been pumping out BARN smell because I could smell the barn.  My watch said I got there at 3:51 and 24 hour pace was 4:10.  I don't recall filling water there and just flew through.  I had one full handheld and a pocketful of gels.  Christine was trying to get some batteries for my headlamp since the cheap-o batteries I brought were dying fast.  I continued to walk across the bridge and remembered she brought me a spare headlamp that had good batteries.  I took the two good ones from the backup and put them in my headlamp that holds three.  Two good and one bad was 100% better and we were off. 

From here it is just over a 5k.  There is a 2.1 mile climb to Robie Point (98.9) and then 1.3 to the finish from there.  I wasn't super confident at this point and put down a gel right out of the aid station.  We started the climb to Robie Point and it just got steeper and steeper. At some point we could see the lights of the aid station way up on the hill to the left...and then the trail goes to the right! GAH! I took another gel.  I didn't want to be the guy that just missed it because I ran out of gas.  Christine was doing an awesome job of pulling me up the hill but once the time crunch was feeling too close I wanted to be in the lead and push myself as hard as I could.  I kept grinding up the hill trying not to look at the lights.  Once I could see the aid station was right ahead I looked back and was happy to see I had put a little gap on Christine.  She was taking care of my battery issues at the last aid station and hadn’t had a chance to refuel so she didn't have a sea of sugar running through her veins like I did!  Somewhere in the last push I took a third gel.

The aid station asked me how I was doing and I told them it was the best day ever, couldn't have asked for more.  I cruised through at 4:25 (15 minutes ahead of 24 hour pace) without stopping and began to powerhike the pavement.  Christine caught up to me and I realized that barring a broken leg I was going to make it.  We had been running all the minor uphills for the last 20 miles and I told her I was content to walk this last one and she agreed.

Just as we crested the final hill there was a handmade sign left on the street that said, ‘Pacers are People Too’, that made us both smile.  We trotted the final downhill toward the high school and I was hoping to see Michelle so she could run the lap around the track with me.  She was in the stadium ready to take pictures though.

The feeling entering that gate to the track is something I wish everyone could experience.  It was truly magical.  It’s just an everyday ordinary high school track but on one day a year is something much more than that.  Just after entering there is a mat that reads your bib number and then the announcer calls out your name, Ryan Anderson from Boise, Idaho is entering the track.....and then they rattle off all your accomplishments.  Before the race they had us fill out a form for the finish line announcements and one of the questions was to mention some non-running achievement.  I wrote down that I used to weigh 318 pounds and if I can do this anyone can do this.  They announced every 100 miler I have done and left the weight loss out unfortunately.

On the backstretch of the track I told Christine I was going to go nice and slow to enjoy this little victory lap.  She looks back a second later and I am stopped...walking backwards! What are you doing? I found a lucky penny, heads up, AND amazingly had the strength to bend down and pick it up.  Normally anything less than a 20 dollar bill gets shoved to the nearest non-runner with a, 'hey can you pick that up for me?'  It was a funny moment.

Christine took my stuff and I cruised to the finish with a final time of 23:42:06.  It was wonderful to see Michelle and give her a big hug and kiss to say thank you for supporting my crazy goals.  After sitting around at the finish for just a few minutes I turned into a 95 year old man that needed a hip replacement which was OK because I was done!

I was very happy with the first half and second half times.  Managing the first half properly allows me to finish strong.  Some days you don’t really know what that pace is until it is over so I must have been right where I needed to be.  The first 50 miles was about 11:20 and the last 50 was 12:20.  Although there is a lot more downhill in the second half it actually has about the same amount of uphill sections.  Near the end when I finally got back on 24 hour pace and then made up 18 minutes it wasn’t that I was speeding up, but slowing down less than the average.  I’ll take it!

I have told my weight loss story to lots of people but one of the most gratifying times I have ever had the opportunity to do so was just after Tim Twietmeyer (25 time finisher) gave me my silver buckle I shook hands with Craig Thornley who is the current race director.  He asked me what the deal was with the Don't Mess with the Fat Kid shirt.  I told him what I used to weigh and his response was...are you serious?  Holy crap! Amazing job out there today!

Garmin Detail

More random pictures...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Official: Western States Endurance Run Course Preview


Hard to believe it is finally here! I have not been shy in saying this is one that I have always wanted to do. When I started trail running people talked about Western States like it was the 'Boston' of trail running. It is the oldest 100 miler and has lots of history. I feel like I have done all I can in training to make sure I am a finisher on race day. I expect to do well but never take anything for granted.

Can't believe this is the same guy that will be toeing the line in two weeks.  I am constantly amazed at how far I have come, and I am grateful for everything I have been able to accomplish.

Three Bears from Mountain Cove

This was a great mental run, but physically this is the worst I have EVER felt on a run...gut wise.  Great because this is why I train.  To figure out what works and what doesn't.

What doesn't?

  • Eating a salad with feta and italian and raviolis.  
  • I also had some peanuts which I think were the real problem since fat is hard to digest.  
  • I don't normally run in the evening so my body was in unknown territory.  
  • I have been growing a beard and mustache and when I drink my Tailwind it gets sticky and drives me nuts (it needs a serious trim or a hack job).  
  • I need to take chapstick. 
  • I need to take a bandana to control the constant river of sweat. 
  • 30 oz of water per hour on a 90 degree day is not enough.

What did work?

  • I took my UltrAspire Alpha pack and filled it to the rim with only ice before I left.  As the ice slowly melted the pack acted like a icy little radiator on my back.  At the top of the 2000-ish foot climb when the temps were the highest I had goosebumps and was shivering.  
  • I had two handhelds with 2 scoops of Tailwind filled with ice and topped with water.  The ice melted soon enough so the mix was just right.
  • Pearl iZumi Ultra Split Shorts are the best running shorts ever.  Light, airy, a zipper you can operate with one hand *easily*, and two gel pockets to put various things. Love them!

I ended up walking all the downhill because I had such a gut bomb.  I know this is crazy but it was a good thing to have.  First to realize what eating certain things at certain times does to me. Second, no gut bomb lasts forever if you recognize it and take care of it.  I was still taking fluids to aid digestion and I walked the downhill to allow some time for it to work itself out which was painful on my brain.  I had to stop occasionally and hold my hands over my head to get the twisting pain in my insides to go away.  Like all things, it slowly passed and by the end I was able to manage a shuffle.  After feeling like I was kicked in the stomach the whole way I was reminded that my 'worst day ever' pace was still well under 24 hour pace even with the walking so I can't complain.  I have never had a serious gut bomb in a race or training so it was a good opportunity to work through it.

The highlight of the run was passing bikers on the uphills. Yesterday there was a group of young riders with a coach or parent and I passed the adult and then 3 of the kids.  When I got to the last kid I heard the adult say, 'You can't let a runner beat you!'...and then I passed him! Too funny.

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