Everything about WS100 was perfect this year. I had true Western States fever, being a five-time consecutive lottery loser (with additional non-consecutive lotteries attempts in years prior all the way back to 2006!). I read about WS 100 when I was a teenager and knew that it was my dream to set off one morning with those runners in Squaw, and over the next 28 years the personal reasons for doing it grew more and more important to me. I have always told myself that it was my time when I got in, and then this fall I got the present of a lifetime when Trish and Chuck Godtfredsen surprised me with the Mile 78 race slot that I hadn’t put in for.
I had very little 100 mile confidence. I had always wanted WS to be my first, but had once tried Mt. Hood 100 and succumbed to hypothermia at mile 80 despite a very strong race. The year before I had jumped into Bryce 100 upon hearing the new qualification standard and completed it without pacer or crew in 34:45 in lockstep with my goal of not risking anything to get my qualifier. I thought maybe I was a 100ker by limitation, but thought I could pull off a solid 27 hour attempt at Western States.
My strategy for training was to focus on course specific training, throw in two great hilly races (Lake Sonoma 50 and Canyons 100K) and do all the training runs. I asked Meghan Arbogast to be my coach for the three months leading up to the big day and did whatever she told me. I had so little time there was no danger of overtraining!
Race day had blue skies (all the smoke cleared out just in time), moderate temperatures (the 100 degree weather had passed), and even some cloud cover. I couldn’t have been happier. I set off up the big climb and discovered that the five of us who had been lucky enough to scout the 30 mile high country together with the guidance of the great Jack Meyer two weeks earlier were miraculously side by side in the crowd of 388 runners – Kelly Barber, Tina Hyde, Sandy Baker, and Jack. It proved to be very important to have seen this section as I was aware that the trail is nothing like TRT – it’s a lot of loose rocks, difficult and tiring if you fight it. It is also very dusty and I made myself use my buff every time runners were in front of me. I also used my inhaler every 2 hours which I’ve never done before. I kept my heart rate below 140 as the trail did its up and downs for the first 30 or so miles; stopping as early as several miles in to wet my buff and soak my head. Matt Keyes’s approval of this strategy raised my hopes that I was doing this section correctly – just the sound of his voice behind me and the sight of him gliding along in front of me made me feel better.
I am finding my race report for the 2015 Western States surprisingly difficult to write. From a factual point of view, it is straight forward. The day started well, cooler than anticipated, and with me running comfortably and close enough to my goal pace for 27 hours. Hydration and nutrition went well and my stomach was solid. The canyons took a higher toll than expected, and somewhere along the way I kicked a rock into an already tender Achilles tendon. I got it rubbed and taped at Michigan Bluff and moved it on down the line. I picked up my pacer in Foresthill, and we moved along into the night, where I found my normal abilities reversed – it was difficult to sustain downhill progress, but my uphill didn’t deteriorate much. I adapted to the conditions on the fly, I watched the clock, and I finished in 29:28, 10 minutes ahead of my previous finish 6 years ago. Yay!
But for me, that’s a hollow account of the day/night/day, as it relates only to my isolated, individual details. What was more noteworthy to me was how deeply I saw and felt the depth of the ultra community. I saw friends I had been running with for over a decade, as well as people I had met as recently as the Training Weekend. At nearly every aid station, I was surprised by seeing someone I knew, either volunteering or spectating – even at RuckyChucky at 3:30 in the morning. I could write at length about the incredible support from my crew and my pacer, or the Michigan Bluff aid station where I’ve volunteered for the last 5 years, but those would be expected.
This is what I didn’t expect –
Somehow the slider on my bladder gets jammed at Foresthill. At Peachstone it is impossible to remove. Without hesitation, one of the volunteers there takes my bladder and sens me off with the one from her pack. Shannon from Portland.
At Brown’s Bar, in the early light of day, a volunteer checks on me as I drink some coke. Then with conviction he tells me, “You’ve got this, just keep moving.” Hal Koerner.
Coming up from Robie Point. Rob Krar is coming down. He crosses to my side of the street to shake my hand and says “Good job”. The next time I see him he’s in front of a small group of people hustling onto the track in the final minutes of the race. The winner of the race is leading in the final competitor.
Without exception, each and every person I encountered on race day made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. Whether they were checking me in at Squaw, a volunteer at an aid station, or the winner of the race (including today’s race!). My race report from Western States boils down to this: I had a good time participating in an exceptional race and encountered the most extraordinary people along the way. I couldn’t be more fulfilled.
The Western States 100-mile Endurance Run did not disappoint this year. The race always promises heat and competition, and it wasn’t short on either. Temperatures were in the 90’s in Auburn, which means the canyons were smoking, and the competition was fierce, especially on the women’s side.
In the front of the women’s pack, first time WS runner, and first time 100-miler, Magdalena Boulet won the women’s race after taking the lead from Stephanie Howe before Foresthill, and finished in 19:05. Kaci Lickteig ran a smart race to take second in 19:20, and Stephanie Howe rounded out the podium in third in 19:32.
On the men’s side, Rob Krar ran a very calculated and focused race, also taking the lead coming into Foresthill, and never coming close to giving it up. He toyed with the course record all the way to Robie Point, and finished with the second-fastest time in course history, 14:48. Seth Swanson assumed a familiar spot in second place just after Foresthill School and held that position to the finish, in 15:17. It seems the real fight for the men was for third, as the young Jared Hazen had to fend off Gediminas Grinius, who caught up to, and led Jared over No Hands Bridge. But Jared made a final push up the climb to Robie Point to claim the last spot on the podium. You can read a better account of the front end action over at iRunFar.
But enough about them, let’s get to our own Donner Party Mountain Runners! Each of these 11 brave souls set out on an adventure to make it to Auburn. Seven made it, and four were forced to call it quits. All are warriors.
Here’s how they ended up on the day, in order of finishing times:
Skip Crockett sure led the pack! What an incredible race for Skip, cutting almost 90 minutes off his previous WS time, finishing in 18:07 and placing 13th overall! Skip credits his relentless advancement in the field to his coach, Peter Fain, and says “there’s no way I would have cracked the top 20 without him.” By the looks of this picture, he was focused and committed, and it paid off (or Peter is just using a cattle prod that we can’t see). Nice work, amigo!
Jennifer Hemmen ran an equally incredible race her first time at States. She placed 15th woman in 23:22, with great race execution. Wow that is impressive. Great job getting the silver buckle! You can find her race report right over here.
Kelly Barber battled some health issues leading up to the race, but was able to be among those who crossed the line on the Placer High track. His time was 26:37, and his race report is here. Great work Kelly!
Next up was the 28 hour group, lead by Mike Kreadon in 28:01, Jason Dumars in 28:36, and Tina Hyde in 28:39. Tina said that she had an amazing day out there, and can’t thank all of the volunteers enough. Read her race report right here. The final DPMR finisher was Bill Hunter in 29:28, besting his previous finish in 2009 by 10 minutes! Bill, as with all of the other DPMR’s I spoke with, had a remarkable appreciation of the volunteers and fans at this race. Please read his race report here.
Although they did not make the finish line in Auburn, Kynan Matz, Laura Matz, Claire Price, and Paul Sweeney are all tough and took on the amazing challenge of running 100 miles from Squaw to Auburn. Check out Claire’s recap of the day here. For some it was a prior injury that forced them to call it a day, for others it was stomach issues that crippled them to a crawl. No matter what the reason, the important thing is that they recognized there was a problem, addressed whether or not it could be overcome, and then made the right decision to fight another day. Great effort!
Many runners come to this sport for the community, where the winner of the race runs alongside the last runner to the finish line, and the crowd is just as loud for both of them. Western States, with its 1,500 volunteers and countless fans, epitomizes this sense of community. And community seems to be the central theme in each of these member’s accounts from race day. Bill Hunter describes it perfectly,
“Each and every person I encountered on race day made me feel like I was the most important person in the world.”
Congratulations to everyone who suffered out there on Saturday, whether they earned a buckle or not. Unafraid!
Author’s note: I am in the middle of finishing my race report for Western States 100. I had thought I could get it done in time for the newsletter, but I found myself rushing through, and I don’t want to forget any details that I might not remember when I am 80. So, I decided to just write something a little bit shorter for now, and you all can read my lengthy race report when I finish it!
Western States 100 was more incredible than I ever imagined. It makes sense why so many people are so determined to run this race. It is so well put together, and it runs like a well-oiled machine. From the start to the finish, it is every bit of amazing that you can ever imagine.
I can’t even begin to describe to you how amazing the volunteers are. They are on you like flies on poop. As soon as you roll in, someone comes and takes your pack/bottles and gets busy on getting them filled. Then, another volunteer comes and guides you around and gets you anything that you need. You want something? You ask, and they find a way to make it happen. I was beyond impressed and felt like royalty. It was such a relief to not have to think for myself because they were doing it for me. Way cool. Thank you, volunteers, for contributing to this race and giving back to the runners.
The trails on this course are so well maintained and are beautiful from start to finish. We’ve got some amazing locals that care so much about the trail and the wilderness, and they keep it as close to perfect as possible for us. I found myself appreciating their hard work so many times throughout the day – especially when I was running through a cut downed tree, rather than having to hobble my sore ass legs over an obstacle. So, THANK YOU, if you’re reading this and you’ve been a part of the team that keeps these trails so incredibly maintained.
The spectators are awesome. There are SO many people out there cheering for YOU. Whether you are a local or someone who has never seen the trail before, you can see the excitement pour from these people who are cheering us on. It’s so cool to be able to give them a little bit of inspiration. These people believe in us and they certainly gave me life when I was running on nothing.
There were many highlights of my day!
- My better half, Bert, has been stuck on a mandatory staffing pattern at CalFire and I hadn’t seen him for 2 weeks. While he wasn’t able to see me off at the start, he was able to help crew me during the day, and it was so refreshing to have him there for me.
- I loved seeing so many familiar faces out there, whether they were runners, spectators, or volunteers. I loved that it is so crew friendly – it truly is so uplifting when I was able to see my crew so many times during the day/night/morning. It kept me moving right along.
- I had more highs than lows. I smiled more than I frowned.
- I set out to run a conservative race and take care of myself in the high country and in the canyons so I could have some life in me to run during the second part of the race, and I did just that (advice of many veterans). I found myself passing up quite a few people who tore past me on canyon climbs and descents and they weren’t moving so well on their way down to the river. That’s when I realized that I had run an incredibly smart race, and it gave me a little boost to carry on down to the river.
- I had THE BEST PACERS, ever. They got me to the finish of my first 100 @ TRT and they did it again at WS. Michaela and Dustin know how to handle me and keep me moving. They deal with my stubborn fueling issues and always know what to say to make me eat. Most of all, I have so much fun running with those two.
- The water crossings were still flowing. HUGE highlight and they saved my ass. I took advantage of almost every single opportunity to get wet, and that helped keep my core cool so I could keep moving forward without getting too overheated.
- The finish line was everything that I could have dreamed of. Entering that track (where I graduated in 2004) was one of the best moments of my life. I was HOME. The crowd was cheering like I was the winner of the race. It was incredible and I can’t even describe to you the rush of emotion that I felt as I ran around that track and finally crossed that finish line after 28 hours and 39 minutes of some of the most amazing hours of my life!
Thanks to all you DPMR’s, who were out there cheering us on and supporting us in every way that you possibly could. I hope that if WS100 is one of your ultimate goals, you get to run it because it was one of the best events that I have ever been apart of and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on that!!!
Well, Western States didn’t quite turn out as I’d hoped, as I dropped at Robinson Flat, but my whole trip was still a great experience. As some of you know, I live in Hong Kong, but I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past month up in Truckee/Tahoe training, visiting the area & meeting many of you lovely Donner Party Mountain Runner members. My initial introduction was through Audrey Staples, Helen Pelster & Gretchen Brugman – how lucky I was to be introduced to the three of you! Everyone at DMPR has made me feel so welcome & very much a part of your trail running family. I’m incredibly touched & grateful. I love running in your beautiful mountains – this is a very special place.
I felt excited & pretty good on Saturday morning before the race. Not too nervous & I felt I knew how to manage my race and pace it sensibly. I felt good, having trained pretty well, and was hoping to improve on my 22h32 finish in 2012 and 18th female position. I don’t train to a strict schedule, or do any speed work, but I try to do a mix of short & long runs, & most of all to keep it fun – otherwise I can’t see the point! Running for me is most of all about seeing beautiful places & making connections with like-minded people, not so much about putting on a bib, although I do like to push myself as a more of a personal test. I’m not an experienced 100 mile runner – I’ve only finished 2 previously – Western States & Ultra Trail Mount Fuji. I’ve had more success at the 100k distance.
I love the start of Western States – so much calmer & more low-key than a lot of the European & Asian races, in spite of the fact that it’s such an iconic race. I prefer smaller races & less hype, so I felt privileged to be a part of this special race where you can just rock up to the start 5 minutes before the gun goes off. I bear in mind the words of Theodore Roosevelt at the start of big races now – I first read them on the WS100 website in 2012, when I was preparing for that race:
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
It’s one of the most inspiring quotes I know & it’s particularly appropriate for ultra running.
It was pretty warm at the start in Squaw, which was definitely a sign of things to come. The climb up the Escarpment was stunning, with amazing views of a beautiful pink, dawn sky, with Lake Tahoe in the distance. The lupins & mule ears in full bloom & smelled amazing. Such a treat & a reminder of why I was here.
My run, as far as I got, was pretty uneventful, so I’ll spare you the boring details. The pack spread out quickly, so there was space to run at your own comfortable pace. As ever, the aid station crews were amazing – so helpful, friendly & efficient. Very impressive & much appreciated. I felt pretty good until Duncan Canyon Aid Station, but it was starting to get hot. And then the oddest thing happened – after stocking up with water to mix with my Tailwind and eating some melon at the aid station, I went from trotting along like a happy little mountain goat to feeling absolutely dreadful, in the space of 30 minutes. I’ve had a bad stomach in a few races before, but this was nothing like anything I’ve experienced. The climb out of Duncan Canyon up to Robinson Flat was painfully slow & punctuated with quite a few stops to throw up everything in my stomach. I kept thinking I’d feel better after each episode, but I was slowly dehydrating & getting dizzy & also starting to shiver from the creek water I’d been dousing myself with.
By the time I reached Robinson Flat around 11am, I was in a pretty bad way. I stayed in the aid station for about 30 minutes trying to eat & drink. I wasn’t sure I could carry on, although I was loathe to call it quits so early in the day, having invested so much into this race, and when I wasn’t injured. But I know my body by now & wasn’t confident I could turn things around. Many people recover from this kind of thing though (& indeed, a lot of people did on the day), so, with the “tough love” encouragement of my crew, I gave it a shot. As soon as I got up, I threw up again, but I carried on & hiked for 10 minutes out of the aid station & then had to stop & throw up again & sit down to rest. Heaps of runners came past & were supportive & encouraging – a friend from Hong Kong even offered me his heat scarf (thank you Chor Kin!) – but in the end, I felt the only option was to drag myself back to Robinson Flat, where I found Betsy Nye & her friend Chris (my crew having already left). They were amazing – trying everything to settle my stomach & get me on my way, but after another 45 minutes of being sick as a dog, I finally did the walk of shame over to the Aid Station captain to get my wrist band cut & then find a lift out to Foresthill. (Thank you Tony Lafferty – you saved me!)
It took me a trip to the First Aid station at Foresthill & quite a few hours to start feeling better. I’m still not sure what happened — I guess just an off day & possibly an underlying weakness in my system that meant my body just couldn’t take the stress of the heat & a long run that day. I don’t think I ran too fast. I’ll have to analyse my nutrition some more & see what I can improve. My stomach issues are definitely getting worse as I get older, which is a complaint I hear a lot from friends.
I’m sad I didn’t get to the finish line this year, but I’m thrilled to have been lucky enough to spend time up in Tahoe/Truckee making so many lasting friendships — this trip was about so much more than just a race. And while I respect people who agonise over DNF’ing, I don’t stress about it. I feel it’s all part of the sport – you have to accept the lows with the highs and to take care of your body. The last thing I want is to do serious damage to my health, or to ruin someone else’s race by passing out on the course and forcing them to take care of me & help with a rescue. I’ll push myself as far as I feel I can on the day, but I’m okay with not always achieving my goal.
So it’s onwards & upwards for me. I’ll take a break from racing until the autumn in Hong Kong, and will probably then focus on shorter races, and will take time for other things for a while – probably more adventure travel & less racing. I must say, I have to beg to differ with Karl Melzer, who says that “100 miles ain’t that far”. I think it’s a bloody long way & I’m in awe of so many of you who run that distance on a regular basis.
I’d like to thank each & every one of you for making me feel so welcome. Love you all – you have been so kind. Please reach out to me if any of you ever come over to Hong Kong — I’d love to introduce you to the trail running community over there. Just look me up on Facebook.
San Diego 100 starts and ends at Lake Cuyamaca, up in the mountains about an hour and a half east of the San Diego airport. If you have visions of running on the beach, you will be disappointed, with the majority of the race at 4-5,000 feet of elevation.
Compared to the hustle and bustle of the San Diego area, the race venue is remote, quiet, relaxing, with friendly people – my kind of place.
We flew down to San Diego from Reno mid-morning on Friday, rented a car and drove the hour or so up to Mt Laguna Lodge with a quick stop at a grocery store to pick up a few items. The lodge has both hotel rooms and cabins for rent that are basic and dated but clean and comfortable; more than adequate as a race base. A general store on site and several bar and grills nearby to make the crew happy and pick up that forgotten item. Mt Laguna Lodge is in a great location for the race, being less than an easy 30 minute drive to the start/finish and within minutes of multiple aid stations. Being in close proximity to the race venue gave us plenty of time to get checked in, unpack, relax a bit, and then head over to Lake Cuyamaca for the packet pickup, race and crew briefing. To keep things simple, low key and relaxed we made our prerace dinner of pasta, bread, and salad at the cabin.
As always, after a less than ideal night of sleep the race morning alarm was rude. A bit of coffee and some toast and we were headed off to the start. Upon arrival, we hung out in the large start area tent keeping the morning chill at bay.
Soon it was race time and I lined up mid pack with the intention of a more controlled start- I have a tendency to start racing too soon.
The countdown began, then the surge forward as the race field narrowed down to a single track across a meadow, a sharp right, then starting the first major climb less than a quarter mile into the race. This new portion of the course was rocky and rooted and I like many, were thinking, this will be fun at mile 99 on the return. The conga lines thinned as the field spread out. At the top, the course became fire roads giving anxious people like myself the ability to pass on the descent into the first aid station, Paso Picacho. A quick in and out at the aid station, then promptly start another good climb up to the top of Stonewall. The trail for the ascent was good, mostly sandy DG, a few rounded rocks with a few big step-ups. However the charter of the other side of the mountain is different, steep, with plenty of rocks and technical footing. I was moving well, but was being passed on the descents by several- that’s fine, plenty of race to go.
The course continues out through a series of meadows, calm, quiet and cool in the still morning air. Early-race chatter was everywhere as others bantered about. “Hi, I’m Jimmy Dean Freeman” as another small pack goes zipping by. Nearing Chambers AS, a corner that was a bit thin with ribbons sent a pack ahead of me down a wrong path, they quickly figured out the error and were back on track quickly. Race staff was already on it by the time I informed them of the corner. In and out of Chambers AS, quickly and off across more rolling meadows. The morning was great, cool, clear and a light breeze, and more rolling trails through the meadows as we made our way out toward Pedro Fages AS. A quick bottle refill and a hand full of food off the table – giant strawberries, that looks good. Another nice meadow before a quick hard right turn onto the PCT, that you had to be looking for – I see two runners below me on a road, I yell that that they are off course, but am unsure if they can hear me- they had missed the sharp turn. On the PCT, the course decidedly changes character from the rolling meadows and big climbs to more rocky single track along a big exposed ridge in the chaparral brush with big views off to the east that look down into the desert far below. On the ridge where the breeze was blowing, it was still cool, but in spots where you were protected, one could start to feel the heat of the day starting to build.
Soon, I was rolling into Sunrise 1 AS, for the first access of my crew in the race. I got off my feet for a few minutes and resupplied with food, water and another bottle of Tail wind. With crew access, I like to have them mix up tailwind so you know what you are getting. Sometimes the drink(s) from the AS are too weak or strong. I also informed crew of a sore spot/stone bruise on my left foot that I had after running Miwok a few weeks before and to have a near new set of Cascadias ready at the next aid station (Pioneer Mail 1) as I was hoping that the extra cushion of the new shoes would help.
Back out of the aid station for more miles on the PCT with the big vistas off to the east, into the desert and beyond. The course continues to roll along in and out of the brush and monolithic boulders with spots where the trail is carved into steep hill sides where one wrong step, you would end up far below. The day continued to be great, great views, light breezes and warm sun.
The crew was waiting for me at Pioneer Mail 1, a quick shoe change – resupply and down the trail I headed. I could hear the Trent girls on the road above cheering me on, John must not be far behind. The trail continued to roll along the high ridge as we continued to head south. Nearing Penny Pines 1 AS, I could feel the additive stress of the warming day, stone bruise and the miles starting to catch up. This had me digging into my pack for a couple of Ibuprofen at Penny Pines 1. Things were not bad, but I wanted to be proactive on any issues that may come up, especially this early in the race. A bottle refill and a hand full of watermelon and I was out and head for Todd’s Cabin AS.
The trail conditions continue to be the same, but the scenery was starting to change again as the large pines start to filter into view and the associated shade that is welcoming as the day continues to warm. The ibuprofen does the trick and I feel and move better including better food consumption. I had packed (or bought) the majority of my own food for the race due past issues with nutrition. The fresh strawberries and sticky short-grain rice were going down well.
A quick in-and-out of Todd’s Cabin AS, and continued to enjoy the tall woods with the deep shade. More hikers and users were on the trail, but all were friendly with a few even asking about the race. Things continued to click along as the miles went by. The deep shade and the quiet of the woods were welcoming. Soon the single track gave way to a dirt road a mile or two out from the AS. With no traffic, the road was a relaxing break where one could cruise along with a bit of mindless running. Soon I was making a small climb and crossing the Sunrise Hwy blacktop into Redtail Roost AS where the crew was waiting. The day was warming up so a resupply with plenty of ice including the ice bandana. I continued to feel ok, but not great.
Out of Redtail Roost, and headed onto the Meadows AS. The single track winds along big wooded ridges then drops back into open grassy meadows several times. I felt like I was making big loops but not going anywhere, since the meadows all looked familiar and the same. Soon into The Meadows AS where you run right through the AS, touch a flag, then return. Another AS where crew has access, so the full-on pit crew treatment. I continued to feel ok, but far from great, so a couple more ibuprofen, resupply of food and drinks and a load of ice in the bandana.
The course continued to be a mix of wooded ridges, some with some rocky technical trail that slowed me to a walk, then punctuated by meadows and very runnable trail. Looking back now, my food consumption has started to lag since nothing was sounding good. The pace was starting to slow a bit as I had been on the move for over 10 hours. A pacer was the carrot waiting for me at the next AS, Penny Pines 2, at mile 56.3 as I chugged along.
At Penny Pines 2, there was Jason Riddle (pacer drop off only, no crew access) cold Coke in hand and ready to roll. Nothing sounded good and the chicken soup was not going yet so I settled for some watermelon and ginger ale. Out of the AS we headed, with the big descent into Noble Canyon ahead (and an even bigger climb out). Out of the big timber and into the brushy chaparral before descending into the big live oaks where the trail paralleled an idyllic babbling brook with inviting pools, greenery and mini waterfalls. As we neared the bottom, the trail continued to become more rocky and rough and my not-so-happy stomach continued to become more unsettled. After rattling along the last couple of miles, the Pine Creek AS was a happy sight. I rolled into the AS and had a seat that promptly caused my legs to cramp. A couple of S-caps were in order, so down they went with a splash of water – that had me promptly heading for the weeds as they and everything else came right back up. Well, that was not fun, but maybe a “system reset” was needed to make things right. Still not feeling all that good, I sipped a bit of water, tailwind and got a cup of soup to take with me.
Now an 8-mile climb back out of Noble Canyon to Pioneer Mail 2, with two miles on a steep blacktop road to start. The sun was starting to get low in the western sky, as we walked our way up the blacktop. Not far out of the AS as the road climbed ever steeper, I started to bonk to the point where I could not even walk up the grade. A few steps, then a rest, repeat… After a couple of these walk-rest cycles, I was to the point where I had to sit down to take a rest. Near the top of the black top another “event” left me laying on the side of the road and my abs sore from the mid-race “core workout”. It was apparent that my GI was not processing anything. I continued to think that all I had to do was make it to the top where the AS was and my crew could patch me back together. Slow walking, with lots of stops as the sun went down and runners streamed past me. Another event left me again laying in the dirt very near the top of the climb in the dark almost in the middle of the trail. Many helpful people asked if there was anything they could do to help, including Ray Sanchez (Thanks for helping!), who got me out of the dirt, and moving once again up the trail. The course does a bit of side hilling, then a short decent into Pioneer Mail to a waiting and very concerned crew since I was hours past due. This was the longest, hardest 8 miles of my life. I thought there was a chance the race was over for me.
I spent over an hour in the Pioneer Mail 2 aid station as the crew nursed me back to life. A change of clean clothes, wrapped in blankets on a picnic table slowly sipping 7-up and dozing fitfully, trying to pull the pieces together. Soon, Crew Boss Sherri deemed me fit enough to leave the AS with a can of 7-up and orders to walk to the next AS. I walked the next section to Sunrise 2 AS with only a few breaks. A fairly uneventful section other than being slow, a lone scorpion in the trail that Jason spotted, and the odd racer streaming by.
Soon we rolled into Sunrise 2 AS to a waiting crew and a new pacer. Shortly after leaving the AS, Miriam was encouraging me into a slow jog as the course winds its way back down into the meadows surrounding Lake Cuyamaca on smooth single track. We continued to move reasonably well, and even passed a runner or two with the “gel queen” hounding me to have a gel before I bonk again. I attempted a small portion that promptly made me gag then shortly I ended up with the majority of the gel all over the front of me, making a sticky mess and me in an even more irritated mood. We continued to jog-walk, not overly fast, but we were making much better time than we had on the previous segment.
Soon we were coming into Chambers 2, where I handed off the bottles for a cleanup and grabbed some soup and 7-up and out we headed with two major climbs ahead, low energy levels, and a pacer with visions of a sub-24 finish dancing in her head. We continued to jog-walk across the meadows with the steep rocky climb up Stonewall looming in my head. As the trail started to pitch up and become rockier, thoughts of just keep moving were first and foremost. The climb up was as expected, a trudge, through the never ending switchbacks, rocks and large step-ups. Soon we were on top, and making the descent on the much nicer trails into Paso Picacho AS. In sight of the AS on a road, we encountered a spotted skunk, the first one I have ever seen, but still, not the kind of excitement that most look for when 93 miles into a race. He danced down the road a bit, then had enough, and went off into the grass so we could get by and get some aid.
As the sky began to become lighter, we made our way out of the last aid station with both of us keeping close eye on the time, knowing that sub-24 was doable if I was able to make the last climb in decent time. As always, watching the clock makes the passage of time go slow was you try to make haste. Again the summit seemed to come slowly and the final steep, rocky, rooty downhill was looming. Would my quads be able to move well, or would I be relegated to a slow downhill walk to the finish? Being able to see the lake form the top, you know that the finish line is close, and you get that smell-the-barn motivation. Rattling down the hill on tired legs, attempting to make good time, but knowing that your ability to recover from a trip is poor is always an interesting experience. Move fast, but not too fast. Soon we were at the bottom, crossing the road and into a lakeside meadow that indicated that the finish was now yards, not miles away. Crew and other spectators could be heard cheering as we climbed the last small rise into the parking lot and the finish. R D Scotty waiting at the finish (as he does for all) with a metal, buckle and a hug. We had done it in 23:47:34, sub 24, thanks to a surprising comeback that can only be attributed to the great crew and pacers.
Thanks to all that made this race happen for me. Crew boss Sherri Twedt once again knew what I needed, many time before I did. She knows how to pull the flaming bacon out of the fire and salvage it, she proved this once again. Jason Riddle took time out of his family vacation in San Diego come out and pace, while “professional pacer” Miriam Smith jumped on a plane at the last minute to come down for a little adventure. My brother Chris who drove down with a car load of supplies that made the weekend easier and more comfortable for all. And not least, Lucas, my 12 YO son who was a trooper during this very long weekend, even being there in the early morning hours when I crossed the finish line.
I continue to work on race nutrition and dial it in. For a large portion of this season, I have experimented with real food instead of gels, blocks and the like. I was able to complete Miwok 100 k without using a single gel, just real food and Tailwind for electrolytes. Some foods that I used for this race include short grain sticky rice, baked sweet potatoes, fresh strawberries and avocado/turkey rolls. I did eat some food off the tables such as watermelon, peanuts (early) coke and 7-up. I will continue to add additional items to see if I can get the late-in-the-race nutrition figured out and keep the GI happy, the key to racing to my full potential.
Crew access at the SD 100 is about as good as it gets, with many of the drives between crew accessible aid stations measured in single digit minutes. The majority of these are accessible off a single well maintained road, the Sunrise Highway. This gives the crew plenty of time to eat and rest though out the day. Since the Mt Laguna Lodge is near the center point of the course, it is an ideal base camp so crews have the option to rest, resupply, or easily grab that forgotten item from the room.
Scotty Mills puts on a great race with plenty of swag, great aid stations, and even a full-on pancake breakfast on Sunday, if your stomach is up to it. The race has been plagued by course marking vandals the past two years, so the start date for 2016 has been moved to Friday in an effort to alleviate conflicts with other users and crowded parking at several locations. Temperatures were much cooler this year compared to 2014, and I suspect most years, but by mid-afternoon it was warm and it was warm through the night.
On June 13, I had the privilege of being able to run just a few blocks from my house to the start of the race that was put on by Sean Flanagan and the running club. And it was a FREE race, with the stipulation of being a paid DPMR member.
Since this was taking place on my backyard trails, I knew that I would have to represent the Hood and go all out from the start, which I was kind of dreading since that is not my style of running. Race morning dawned, and my legs felt like they had some pep in them, so I mentally geared up to do battle and make it hurt.
We all met at the Lake Tahoe Wellness Center for our race briefing from Sean and then walked the 2 blocks over to the start. I’d say this was more like a Fun Run for most of the 20ish runners out there, but it was game on for me, especially since the super speedy Kristin Walstad was also running. The start was about as casual as it gets and a fun social scene, or at least until Sean gave the count down to set us off. I took off fast (for me), but not all out since I knew so well what a challenging 13 miles lay before us.
I slowly pulled away from everyone else and kept pushing hard, knowing that Kristin was not far behind, and figuring I could let off the gas a little after she passed me. Well, this never really happened, though she did catch me and we ended up running mostly together for the second half of the course. Kristin kept me at an honest race pace, especially as we power hiked the infamous KB Powerline that gains almost 900′ of vert in about half a mile. I tried to lose her on the final long downhill (she told me she is not a good downhiller, which turned out to not be true), but she kept right on my heels, and we ended up in a photo finish and tie for the win. It was a proud day for me to be able to finish neck and neck with a runner as fast as Kristin.
While this was officially Sean’s race, he received much needed and fantastic volunteer help from Helen Pelster, Lesley Dellamonica, and her boyfriend Bruce on race day, and from Dan Baxely the day before for course marking. Thanks so much you guys for putting this race on!!! That was so much fun with some really cool DPMR folks participating.
On May 9th I had the pleasure of running the Quicksilver 100k in San Jose, Ca. Quicksilver sold out extremely quickly the day it opened for registration, so initially I was a bit bummed. It had been on my radar, but I couldn’t sign up as I was still trying to figure out what 100 I wanted to do. As that I played out, I realized I should probably not be spending money on loto tickets because I don’t win.
In mid February DPMR Board Member Betsy Nye brought a contest to Truckee that was put on by the Quicksilver Running Club. Betsy hid a lucky silver coin on the trails of Truckee in the Waddle Ranch area, and the individual who found the coin would get a free entry into the race. Once I heard about this, I spent the next 4 days of my life consumed with the clues and searching for the coin. I clearly am not good at scavenger hunts because I had to go to the same spot 4 times before I dug deep enough to find the coin. Nonetheless, I got it, and I certainly hope the contest comes back to us next year!!!
Fast forward to May 8th, and I had the opportunity to get down to San Jose, check-in to my hotel, and get my and Betsy’s bib at packet pickup. Once Betsy arrived, we all went to out to dinner and had the finest pre-race meal there is. Mexican Food, of course!!! The race start was at 4:30 am so it was bedtime early as I was getting a ride to the start at 3:30 with Betsy. Morning came quickly, but I was ready to roll.
There was a pre race briefing 10 minutes before the start, and before I knew it we were off. It was dark of course, and everyone was half asleep still, so the race went out fairly slow in the grand scheme of things. I honestly felt really good to start the day. This was my first ultra in 11 months though, and I hadn’t run over 25 miles in a training run this year. I had a lot of back to back long runs on the weekends, but I still lacked confidence that I could get this one done.
I felt really good for the first 18 miles just cruising and feeling strong. I was racing with my Salomon pack for the first time. I had 70 ounces of Tailwind in the bladder plus my gels on me, so I didn’t have to stop at any of the early aid stations. Once I got to 18 though, we reached the second largest climb of the day, and I hit a small down patch. Once again doubt crept in, but I was able to work my way up to the Kennedy aid station. I spent some time there getting my pack refilled and mixed with Tailwind. I also started my go-to ultra fuel of choice: coca cola. I made sure to drink down a bunch, and frankly it was probably too much. I also ate watermelon and oranges, and I would continue that for the day as well. One final note on nutrition is that I took 2 S-caps, per coach Fain’s instructions, at every hour.
The next part of the day was pretty uneventful as I worked my way around a loop that brought me back to the Kennedy aid station. The only real highlight was taking on the Dead Kennedy Rollers and a climb called Dog Meat because there was a Strava segment challenge. I am slightly addicted to Strava, so any time I get to enjoy the use of it makes things a bit more fun for me.
From the top of the mountain we got basically 3500 feet of downhill, so it was time to test my legs. I had a small stomach issue that required a pit stop in the woods from taking in too much soda and fruit a while back, but all was well after the brief stop.
I knew that at the next aid station I would get to see my wife and daughter, so it was easy to start charging to Hacienda, where the race also started. My daughter Siri and I have been planning and plotting all year to howl like a dog before she can see me so she knows I am coming. This really was the highlight of my day, and I knew this would be the opportunity to give it the first official test run. We also plan on using this method at Leadville as well. I got a peep of the aid station through the trees to I let out a bunch of howls. I worked my way down and into the open and rounded the corner into the field and sure enough there was my Erin and Siri waiting to see me. As soon as Siri saw me, she started sprinting towards me to come escort me into the aid station. There really is nothing better than the support the two of them give me, and it always inspires me to get done quicker so I can go enjoy time with them. Siri helped get me some fruit and I talked to Erin for a few. Of course Siri asked if I found any shortcuts and the aid station captain got a nice chuckle. Of course, I showed him my watch to show him I was at 40 miles.
After seeing my family, I was inspired to charge the final 21 miles. Plus, I had two runners in front of me whom I was able to catch up to quickly and pass. I worked my way over to what is the finish area but also represented an aid station. It was about 3 miles there so it was nice to keep hitting aid stations quickly.
The next section proved to be pretty fun. We hit the day’s first real single track and worked our way over to what everyone was calling the rockpile. Basically out of nowhere we were heading straight up a rock/scree pile that was not super long, but with 45 or so miles on my legs, it hurt. I had a few choice words for the rockpile but made it to the top. At this point I started to catch up to the 50k runners as well. If nothing else, it offered a way to occupy my mind. I made my way up to the Bull Run aid station as I had conquered another climb. At this point, the day started to heat up a bit more, so I started dousing myself with water.
Once again I was on the downhill head to Tina’s Den, named after one of the 4 cats of the park. Sadly, I never saw her, but I still had really good downhill legs and felt like I was still pushing the pace pretty well. At this point, the miles were going by a bit slower, but I knew I was going to finish; I just attempted to push as much as I could. Tina’s Den certainly seemed farther than advertised, and this was confirmed by the eventual 3rd place runner Darcy Piceu as she questioned where it was. I passed her at this time, but alas, it would not last.
When I started the race my main goal was simply to break 11 hours. I knew at Bull Run aid I had about 3 miles left, and I knew it was going to be close. Darcy caught back up to me shortly after leaving the aid station. I chatted with her for a minute and asked for a tow. I was able to really push the pace for a while and it was nice to see I had that in my legs. I ran side by side with her for about a mile until we hit a nice little uphill. I power hiked, she ran, and I wouldn’t see her until the finish. After a brief climb, I was able to turn my legs over again and worked my way to down to the finish. Once again, Siri was there waiting for me, and she ran out to greet me. We held hands as I crossed the finish line at 10:58:12, and my day was over.
It was a really great day of running and the Quicksilver Running Club put on a truly top-notch event. All the aid stations were run as well as any. The event and all the runners were all super positive, and I had the best cheering section a Dad could ask for. I got to drink a few beers and say hi to some runners I don’t normally see. The after party is always the best and getting to hang out with fellow local runner Annie Rutledge along with her boyfriend and cousin was just the capping of a great day.
Pretty quickly it was time to go enjoy Mothers Day festivities with Erin and her Mom, so we were out of there and off to Petaluma. I am now looking forward to Leadville and putting in a huge training block between now and August.
The second running of The Canyons Endurance Runs 50k and the inaugural 100K event (a 3/5 point UTMB qualifying race), took place on May 2, 2015, in the tiny Sierra Foothills
town of Foresthill, CA. The event took place along some of the most beautiful and difficult sections of the Western States Trail, and the conditions were near perfect on race morning with blue skies and light breezes. With over 14,000ft of ascent in the 100K and 9,000ft in the 50K, the race is not for the faint of heart.
In the 50k event, course records were broken in both the men’s and women’s field. Peter Fain of Truckee finished 1st in 4:56 (CR), Skip Crockett came in 2nd in 5:00, and Ryan Ghelfi finished 3rd in 5:08. For the women, Claire Price of Hong Kong came in 1st in 5:32 (CR). Emily Peterson was 2nd in 5:41, and Anna Mae Mercier Flynn (aka Tahoe Ninja) came in 3rd in 6:23. The eighty-four runners to complete the 50K received the popular Canyons trucker hat & pint glass.
The finish line party on the grassy lawn near Foresthill Elementary school was the perfect spot to relax tired legs, cheer for the incoming 50k finishers, and encourage the 100k runners as they passed through the mid-way mark. A delicious home-cooked BBQ was served consisting of tri tip, chicken sausage, veggies, lentil soup, and beer provided by local microbrewery Track 7. The final runner in the 50k crossed the line in 12:46:04, but the party was long from over.
Many in the shorter event lingered eager to see what 2014 Western States Champion Rob Krar would do in the 100k. It did not take long to find out as he finished the brutal course in 9 hours, 20 minutes, while stating afterwards that he “could think of no better training run for Western States”. Fernando De Samaniego Steta ran an amazing 10:34 for 2nd, and Evan Namkung finished 3rd in 12:09. In the women’s race, former Olympian Magdalena Boulet lead from start to finish for 1st in 11:32, 2-time former Western States female champion Kathy D’Onofrio finished 2nd in 13:03, and Erika Lindland rounded out the women’s podium with an impressive 13:21.
A total of 84 runners (out of 134) completed the 100K and all were greeted late into the night by the RD’s with a custom branded leather belt, trucker hat and pint glass. The final two finishers crossed the line together in 21 hours, 12 minutes, and 33 seconds. Many friendships and partnerships were made throughout the day and night, as folks completed one of the most grueling, challenging courses they have ever attempted.
Some of our favorite stories of the day include David Bevilacqua, the amazing Team in Training athlete who completed the 100k in under 19 hours, while fighting Lymphoma and Peripheral Neuropathy every step. He raised nearly $9,000 and left a lasting impression with everyone he came across along the course. Heather Monahan, the final finisher in the 50k last year, was having a better day this year, but she slowed down to assist a fellow runner to help bring her in to the finish. There was the Rockstar sweep Kevin, who started his day early at Ruck a Chucky, who with his high-energy, no-quit attitude kept the last runners moving forward and staying positive and guided them into the finish line at 1:12am. It’s the people, who amaze and inspire us, that make the work that goes into an event like this so worthwhile.
Join us next May 7, 2016 as we improve upon what we hope will become a MUST DO bucket-list Ultra, run on one of the most prestigious trails that many consider to be “the birthplace of ultras“.
The Donner Party Mountain Runners were out in full force- with an all-day aid station at Cal 2 on the 100k Course (led by
Captain Mike Tebbutt), and many UNAFRAID runners competing in the 50k and 100k events.
Congratulations to all DPMR’s who completed the 50k, including Board President Peter Fain (course record!), Claire Price (course record!), Skip Crockett (2nd male!), Emily Peterson (2nd female!), Geoff Quine (top 10 in 6:03!), Mike Kreaden (7:23), Jon Arlien (7:37), Martin Sengo (8:01), Ben Praker (9:15), and Miss Kym (10:10).
In the 100k, DPMR was represented in full force by 2nd female Kathy D’onofrio, board secretary Helen Pelster came in 4th female (13:56), Abram Haen (14:11), Jennifer Hemmen (14:46), Ismael Macias (15:09), Kelly Barber (15:17), Dan Baxley (15:23), and Bill Hunter (18:33) rounded out our list of superstars.
A disclaimer before the race report: I am not a runner. I didn’t start really running until April 2014 and I still don’t consider myself a runner. It’s something I do, but definitely not something I have any sort of real natural talent at doing. I have in the past, and somewhat reluctantly, run as part of completing a few triathlons (mostly Olympic and Sprint distances, but one Half Ironman). I took almost 3 years off of any sort of endurance sport after having my daughter in 2011. Sooooo, this report is really that of a complete novice – don’t expect too much. On that note, here you go…
The Big Sur International Marathon took place on Sunday, April 26th and was my second marathon since starting to run in April 2014. I ran CIM in December 2014 and while this is really supposed to be a race report for Big Sur, I continually find myself comparing my two marathon experiences. So, this may look a bit like a side-by-side comparison.
As far as road races are concerned, the two courses are fairly different. CIM is known as one of the flattest and fastest and many people run it specifically to qualify for the Boston Marathon for those attributes. Big Sur, on the other hand is pretty hilly. Pictures say a thousand words, or at least graphs do for geeks like me, so here are the two course profiles overlaid on top of one another:
Here’s a quick summary of what were the “phases” of the run for me.
- The Start through Mile 5 were fun, fast and sheltered from the notorious head winds that whip through Big Sur and Highway 1. The scenery was lush and green but lacking the dramatic views that the race is famous for. It was easy to just let the legs go and do their thing without experiencing any real exertion. Spectators staying at the various places dotting Highway 1 in Big Sur came out to cheer on runners and ring a few bells. We stayed at the Ripplewood Resort (highly recommend it) in Big Sur, which is a collection of cabins and was about 2 miles from the Start. My little girl, Sawyer, and my super stealthy running hubby were there, wrapped in a sleeping bag to cheer me on. Yep, that was the highlight of my run – over and above the gorgeous vistas. There’s nothing like a 4-year-old cutie cheering to make your day.
- Miles 5 through 9 had a fairly gradual incline, which you can see in the elevation profile, but the infamous headwind also kicked up right at mile 5 as well. We were warned at the start that there was a significant headwind from miles 5-9, but that it would likely die down after that. It didn’t. Nevertheless, these miles actually seemed relatively easy and they passed quickly through fields with grazing cattle flanking both sides of the road in very green pastures. Then further off to the west was the Pacific. The views were beautiful but what was to come put even this to shame.
- Mile 10 started with a descent that quickly turned into the largest and longest climb of the marathon. What also started at this mile marker, if memory serves me, was the severe camber of the road. In case you don’t know what camber is (I kept calling it the “pitch of the road” and was corrected several times by veteran runners and cyclists), this handy-dandy graphic sums it up:
Basically, that camber started at mile 10 and didn’t let up that I can remember for the rest of the race. Sooooo, not only are the descents challenging for the joints, the camber of the road is an even larger stress on the knees, ankles and hips – or at least it was for me. This was single handedly what I found most challenging (not in a pleasant way) about the course and my left knee was screaming from about mile 22 through the finish.
- Miles 11 and 12 were the notorious climb to hurricane point. The two miles combined had about 500 ft of elevation gain which honestly wasn’t that bad. It looked long but it actually passed by really quickly, probably due to the incredible views, the energy of the runners and the drumbeat you could hear in the distance.
- 1 – Bixby Bridge was the most rewarding vista of the race. The combination of the coastal view and the architecture of the bridge itself were remarkable. Every year, a grand piano is played at the northern point of Bixby Bridge. When I passed, “Chariots of Fire” was being played. I had heard that people are often overcome with emotion and begin to tear up at the sound of the piano and the sight of the surroundings. I did not.
- Miles 14-Finish – While the Hurricane Point climb was intense, it was largely anticipated and actually more manageable that expected. What I did not anticipate is that the several smaller hills in the second half of the marathon. They were much harder than I would have thought. It could have been that I was already fatigued or it could have been the psychological aspect of having been prepped for the major climb while the others were really represented as a side note in all of the race conversations/material that I had heard and read. Here’s a picture (sorry about the quality) of the approach to the climb to Hurricane Point at mile 12.
- The Finish itself was lined with spectators and the mood was festive and celebratory. There were plenty of comforts provided ranging from food to ice baths to massage tents to more porta-poties (can you tell this is important to me?). I finished in 5:07 which was about 37 minutes slower than my “pie in the sky” goal of 4:30, but I learned A LOT about how my body responds to different elements of racing. There were some consistencies with CIM and some different (I finished CIM in 4:39). My stomach cooperated all the way to mile 17 for Big Sur but only lasted to mile 13 for CIM. YAY – progress! My left knee started feeling wonky at mile 21 and was so painful by mile 22 that I was worried I was going to do permanent damage. I don’t remember having any knee pain at CIM. Basically, each race is a learning experience. I’m happy to have finished the race with nothing more than a sore left knee as an injury and happy to report that even that is recovering nicely.
In short, the race was phenomenally beautiful. It was well organized and supported and information about logistics was well presented. Porta-poties were plentiful along the course (necessary as venturing off the road when nature calls could lead to a very unfortunate encounter with poison oak). Definitely check out BSIM.org for course photos. I’ve included some that I took with my iPhone but for some reason they turned out a bit foggy – probably due to the sweat or dew accumulating on it.