Saturday, July 30, 2016

Top Ten Never Comes Easy

In Ultra Running nothing is ever for sure. Especially when your talking about 100 miles, and when your talking about Western States.
You can plan for the best and expect the worst but its only when things start to get tough...and things will get tough, that you can count on...the one thing that remains constant is that no matter how tough things get the human body has an unbelievable ability to overcome adversity and rally on. Whether it be cramping muscles, bad stomach (bloating, nausea), tired legs, blisters, not eating enough, eating too much, not hydrating enough, hydrating too much, overheating, twisted ankle, crash and burn, going off coarse, headlamp problems, and many other technicalities too numerous to mention. If this sport was easy everyone would do it, but its not, and its not for everyone. Whether front of the race or the last person to cross the line, we all deal with our own set of problems.
I nabbed the title for my blog spot as Never Give Up years ago, when I first started my blog page. Never have those words ever been needed more for me then at this years Western States 100.
I first ran Western States 100 as my very first one hundred mile race back in 2013 and have managed to finish in the top 10 in both 2013 (7th) and 2014 (10th).
I always try to keep those words close in mind.

I have also taken some time off from doing race reports. Just cant find the time....hmmm...maybe I should try not to be so detailed.
Since my last report, I have finished 5 more 100 mile races Run Rabbit Run (2013) Western States (2014) Chimera (2014) UTMB (2015) Bear (2015)
But sometimes you need to be smart and let those words fall to the wayside when pushing through can cause real damage to the body. I chose to call it quits after pushing my body at UTMB (2014) mile 75 and last year at WS mile 80. Never an easy thing to do, but I think its better to be smart and live to fight another day.

I really thought that day last year at mile 80 ended my chances of ever returning to Western States with a very tough lottery process to get into the race. Fellow patagonia teammate Jeff Browning had been trying to get in for the last 14 years!
But as has been the case for as many years as I can remember there are a predetermined set of race venues that offer a automatic entry into WS if you can manage to nab one of the top 2 positions.
I was able to do just that for my 2013 entry with a top finish at Waldo 100k and again at Sean O Brien 100k back in February. That left me with a very tough decision as my sister had picked her wedding day to be the very same day months before. I chose to do the race.
I made it my goal to make sure this year I was going to get in the 100 mile weeks and the long weekend runs that would prepare me for what I knew I was going to need to compete in what is touted as the most prestigious 100 mile race. WS is so tough, because to finish well you need to run...really run... but not too hard...because if you run too hard you become a victim of the course. To find out what I mean you should read the articles that Joe Uhan wrote about for the I Run Far website.

Well my goal to train and train hard really didnt happen, I can only blame myself, maybe I dont have the drive and determination that most runners do when it comes to putting the work in. Its not that I dont want to,  I just find it hard to fit it into my schedule of a 4 am wake up to head off to work to a mentally and physically demanding construction job overseeing and managing 10 to 20 field personal....very stressful. Heading out the door at 6pm after I get home is so tough to do day after day and because of that I tend to err on the side of not running tired just to get in a run, so I usually get in 6 or 7 miles a couple days during the week and with most of my training happening on the weekends or at races.
I did get in some good racing, with back to back 50 milers (Lake Sonoma 50 and Leona Divide 50). Also had two critical blocks of training that I know was a help. One was the Western States training weekend covering the last 70 miles in 3 days and a 4 day adventure/project with Jeff Browning attempting to cover 175 miles in 4 days in the very remote Owyhee Canyon lands.
Story to come in a month or two in Trail Runner and post run interview with The Ginger Runner live

I have not deviated from my pre race Wednesday arrival into Squaw aside from the fact that I flew into Reno instead of driving up and took take advantage of a fun little event at the Patagonia outlet store in Reno and participated in another Ginner Runner live episode with a panel of Patagonia team members to discuss a various number of topics about Western States and ultra running.
Photo: Benjamin Browning

So now to race day!
Wake up 3:45 am
Breakfast of coffee with 600 calories of fat in it (coconut cream, whipping cream, coconut oil, and butter) 2 hardboiled eggs, a small container of sheeps milk yogurt, and a superfood drink mixed with about 8 oz of apple juice.
1 vespa  45 min before.

Short easy warm up to get the blood moving and keep the shock to the system at bay as we begin our immediate ascent right off the line.
My 2015 running and subsequent need to drop out of the race left me with a lack of confidence that I knew how to run this race and make it to the finish. So race plan was to duplicate what I had done 2013, 2014. To go out and have fun and enjoy the day.
I try to keep blinders on for this section so that I dont get caught up in THE RACE too early, but the adrenaline is always heavy making it hard to let the guys you know and typically race with head up and away. But the field starts to thin out fairly quickly and for the most part everyone starts to settle into a reasonable pace minus a handful of guys.  I think everyone is just a bit afraid of becoming a victim of the carnage that this race is famous for.
The race inside the race of the age groupers in the masters category (40-49) that could grab a possible top 10 position was fairly stacked. Coincidence or not we were all grouped together Paul Terranova, Bob Shebest, Jeff Browning, and Peter Fain along with a couple of the younger guys shooting for the win and their first 100 mile finish.

photo: Luis Escobar
Up and over the Escarpment, first climb over and done, a quick look back to say goodbye to Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley and hello to the Sun that is beautiful right now but I know will be the cause of so many problems as it heats the day.
Photo: Jeff Allen

Took the descent slow and easy. Although it was hard to watch my teammates, Paul and Bronco, scamper off down the trail, I wondered if that was the last I would see of them. The section from summit to the first aid is very runnable, mostly downhill with very short if any uphill portions. It wasn't long before Jim Walmsley came shooting around me like he was doing a 5k, and a short time later by Bob Shebest and Chris Mocko, who also were taking advantage of the downhill section early on, but I was determined to stay relaxed and do my own thing.
Entered first aid station Lyons Ridge (10) within seconds of Jeff and Chris.  Next section I spent alone only catching glimpses of Jeff and Chris who were off in the distance.  The only other soul I saw between Red Star aid station (16) and Duncan Canyon (24) was Gary Wang who was out shooting runners.
Photo: Gary Wang

Left Duncan Canyon aid station not only filled up 40 oz of water but the adrenaline meter was also capped off as the excitement from the volunteers and spectators are screaming so loud that you cant even hear yourself think, no wonder Greg Lanctot uses a megaphone to shout out words of encouragement.
Duncan Canyon
Photo: Miriam Simon Carter
 It was about halfway up the climb to Robinson Flat that I was able to catch a glimpse of Chris Mocko. I had run from mile 13ish all the way to 26 by myself no one around, I loved it. I could easily run my own race and enjoy the peacefulness of the mountains and the scenery. this area of the course brought me back to last years race and how I began to get cramps in my legs, and if it might happen again, I quickly brushed those aside as I was feeling good and began to climb with an easy run with small hike breaks.

I knew I didn't want to push too hard to catch/ pass him and running the climb felt comfortable and easy, but I still wanted to make sure I was not overdoing it so when I finally caught up to Peter Fain I decided to hike a bit with him and see how he was doing. I arrived to the crazy spectators at  Robinson Flat and the hottest crew ever to receive my predetermined list (a mile long if you were to ask Keira) of different items....protein with carbo pro, coconut water both taken on the spot, bandana, patagonia duck bill cap, and arm sleeves all loaded with ice, another application of RunGoo, and fresh bottles, one with water the other CarboPro and Fluid.
Robinson Flat
photo: Mollys Phone

 I made my way out of the thunderous crowd of cheers and headed out for what I believe is the portion of the course that is responsible for taking out the greatest number of participants, once you get up and over and down Little Bald mountain,  it is mostly downhill fire roads and very runnable. I felt good which was encouraging because I was in full on cramps the year before at this point in time. I came upon Mario Mendoza not moving very fast and passed him before Miller's Defeat (34). 

Dusty Corners (38) Was a refill of ice in my bandana, hat and arm sleeves now rolled down to be wrist sleeves, full water bottles, a shot of encouragement from Krissy Moehl and off I went to my favorite section of the course.

Last Chance (43) Another fill up on ice (hat, arm sleeves, bandana), a guayaki energy shot and off to the canyons. I actually enjoy this portion of the course. For me it is not the dreaded canyons but the anticipated canyons. The first descent was not going the way I had hoped, even though I had taken it seemingly easy on the downs thus far, my legs and feet were starting to feel the effects of the miles ran. I can only attribute it to a lack of consistent training (before my thursday trip up the escarpment I hadn't run a step two weeks out from race day due to a very allergic reaction to poison oak).
I pressed on and found the climb up to Devils Thumb (47) much more enjoyable then the downs. Joe Uhan working the Devils Thumb AS always gives me an update on the competition directly in front of me and this year was no different telling me that there are number of guys not looking as good of shape as me and are not quite as smart.
I continued on to El Dorado Creek really suffering on the downs, enough for Kyle Pietari to come flying by me like I was standing still. Fortunately it was only 100 meters from the El Dorado Creek AS (53) and the bottom of the canyon. I filled up on water and ice in my bandana and get out quickly ahead of Kyle. I start to push up the climb hard, to try to leave him behind and less then a minute up I hear a few different set of cheers from the volunteers as what sounded like maybe three more runners had closed in. Couple minutes later I see a runner ahead that I am catching, it ends up being Patatgonia teammate Paul Terranova. I had Pauls words echo in my head from our time in 2014 Western States training camp (ironically at this very location), that this section needs to be run and not hiked if you have any chance at top 10. We shared a quick change of encouragement and I was off running, up to the next placed runner Andrew Tuckey who had finished 9th last year. I thought this was a good sign for what was to come as I had just passed two of last years top 10 guys and I was still feeling pretty good.
Michigan Bluff
Photo: Patrick Sweeney

Michigan Bluff (55.7)was a quick shoe change, refreshing coconut water, Carbo pro with protein and fill up on ice from my ace pit crew (no hard boiled eggs this year, just more vespa). Full shot of adrenaline as the loud cheers from the crowd and the encouragement and high fives from a couple legends (Scotty Mills as I entered and Tommy Nielsen as I leave). A switch into the Altra Olympus was like running on clouds and I had a great section from Michigan Bluff to Bath Road where Molly Kassuof was waiting to run me up the 1.3 mile road to the aid station. She handed me a water bottle of Yerba Matte and Carbo Pro as we ran up the road, feeding me information, some I was one of the only ones running up the road that everyone else was hiking....some not so Kaci Lickteig was right behind me only a few minutes away! A couple moments later I see Stephen Wassather hiking up the road and Dylan Bowman pulled off on the side cheering us both on as I catch him just as we reach Dylan. Bath Road was covered in chalk with encouraging comments to race participants, and that is where I saw it in bold letters NEVER GIVE UP.  The mantra I choose to keep close in mind during tough competitions.
We hit Foresthill (62) refuel, reapply rungoo and refresher on ice with the crew and I am off. I had a small inkling that I was somewhere around 15th position as I was told back at Last Chance that I was 18th position. I had passed three up until this point on trail but you never know who you left at aid stations. I knew there was a long way to go and I have in the past caught quite a few at the river. I just needed to get there in good shape. That plan started to deteriorate as the descent toward the river began and the legs were not responding as I had hoped. I heard feet coming up behind me and feared it was Kaci, it instead was Kyle again who was just flying on the descents but the ups not so much. We seesawed back and forth as I had no trouble with the uphill portions. With more down then up on the 16 mile section down to the river Kyle and his pacer beat me to it. But as is normally the case there is carnage at the river. Not quite as much as carnage as race leader Jim Walmsley experienced (you can check out his river swim on You Tube) but I could see a lot of action going on the far side of the river before I entered, including Kyle, but I didnt take the time to figure out who else was there.  I made quick work of the river by a floating and pulling myself across hand over hand style.
Took another 5 seconds to immerse myself and cool my core on the other side.

Photo: Gary Wang

Photo: Janice Herrera
 As I exited, Kyle, who was taking a moment to clean out his shoes mentioned that he was pretty sure we were going to catch a few more and secure a top ten finish as I quickly moved on. Im glad he was confident. After a bit of hiking to let the water empty out of my shoes and the feeling return to my cold numb legs, I felt comfortable doing a bit of running and caught Tofol Castanyer and saw Chris Mocko, who I had not seen since just before Robinson Flat, just ahead of him.
Sarah met me halfway up the road to Green Gate (79.8) with a red bull which I gladly accepted. Up at the aid station Keira was excited as ever, doing her thing trying to get me out of the aid station as quickly as possible. Green Gate for me has always been a pivotal aid station where I have either just gotten into the top 10 placement or knocking on the door, but still have some work to do and a little over 20 miles to get it done, and often times there were more then a few other competitors in the aid station at the same time. Chris and his pacer leave just ahead of me and Tofol and Kyle and their pacers came in just as I left, from what I recall....but there was alot going on. Needless to say it was a tight race. I was told I was 12th leaving the aid station and there were a couple guys ahead not looking so good. Off to the races and now it was time to go after the top 10 that was so sought after. Kyle and his pacer caught and passed me shortly out of the aid station, relegating me to 13th. Shortly thereafter I caught and passed a slow moving Bob Shebest and his pacer Luis Secreto, back to 12th. I was running in close proximity to Chris and his pacer for the next mile or so and passed them as Chris chose to cool off in a small stream by fully laying in the water. As I passed I thought to myself that he is done, and I have 11th place locked up. But not too long after he scampered on by me and left me in the dust as my legs just didnt have a response, back to 12th place. I remember back in 2014 how hard I was able to run the last 20 miles and today I just didnt have the same turnover. But I kept pushing as hard as I could.
As I came up to Auburn Lakes Trails AS (85.2) I could hear the cheers just ahead of me so I knew I was still close to the runners ahead. It was Coke time...took a bottle of water and the other I  filled with coke and ice, grabbed my emergency headlamp from my drop bag (just in case I didnt make it to Hwy 49 before it turned dark) and was gone.  I was just out of the AS and out of view but I heard the cheers for someone coming in just behind me. They were close....too close...I ran hard to Browns Bar seeing and hearing nobody ahead or behind.
Browns Bar (89.9) was a quick fill up on coke and off to Hwy 49 (93.5).  I felt as if I was running scared, looking behind at every long section that would give some indication that I was not being chased down, and less concerned with chasing down those in front of me, at the same time not giving up hope that someone would be worse for the wear then I was and I may be able to snag that last top 10 position. As I headed up the small climb to the Hwy 49 aid station I come upon a spectator heading backward on the course telling me that there are 3 to 4 guys just ahead of me with Sage Canaday being the closest and I was moving better then he was.
Hwy 49  is the last spot to see your crew, the last spot to get time checks on your competition, the last time to get everything you need to get you to the finish even if that ends up being a kick in the pants which is pretty much what I got. With a little under 7 miles to go I was still in 12th place but had Keira and the crew yelling at me to get going that Sage just left the aid station and I needed to get going to catch him. One more fill up on coke and what I thought was going to be a switch out of headlamps to my super bright AYUP headlamp that can turn any dark trail into a well lit path that illuminates every little rock and dip as if it were daylight. You really dont realize how good something is until you dont have it.  My AYUP headlamp was thought to be on me already. You need to be prepared for everything. I was not planning on even using the headlamp from my drop bag I had got from Auburn Lake Trails but I found myself needing to take it with me to the finish. It was not a good scenario. Thankfully I only had 3 miles on the technical portion of the trails. Out of Hwy 49 there is a small climb of about a 1/4 mile and I could see a headlamp just ahead, as I caught up I could see it was Sage who stepped off trail to let me pass. We crested the hill about the same time and I heard his pacer encourage him to stay with me. Now in 11th place I was just determined to try and hold my position. 1/4 mile later I pass Jim Walmsley and his pacer James Bonnet standing at the side of the trail. They both acknowledged me and were excited to give me the news that I was now in the top 10. I had no idea at that point that Jim had quite the day....including the most epic river crossing, being an hour ahead of second place and 17 min under course record pace with 8ish miles to go before missing the single track heading to Hwy 49 aid station and going off course.
I made it to No Hands Bridge (96.8) and didnt even stop, I was running scared for sure. As far as I was concerned Sage was right on my heals and with his kind of speed he could easily take the 10th place spot back from me on the flat section before the climb up to Robie Point. I didnt even need to look back, I knew if I could get far enough away from the aid station and I didnt hear any cheers from the volunteers that I may be able to hang on. All was good no cheering was heard. I started the climb to Robie Point and figured I needed to run everything I could, no time for holding back. I could hear cheers up ahead at the Robie Point aid station about a half mile away, and then again 1/4 of a mile away for the competitors just ahead. I took a quick look down in the direction the climb had started and to my horror I saw a light. It couldnt be could it? Did Sage chase me down? If in fact it was him I figured I had about a 2 minute lead. I pushed as hard as I could and ran the entire last bit up to Robie Point (98.9).

iRunFar as always has a fun commentary on race day.
Aaaaaand rounding out the top 10 at mile 97. Guess who? No really, guess! It's Jesse Haynes and he's 2 minutes from 9th! RETWEETS

 I totally skipped the aid station and made the 180 degree turn onto the blacktop and knowing that there was just 1.3 miles left. Asked one of the volunteers if they could see a headlamp coming up the dirt road below me and the answer was "yes...but a ways back".  I couldn't count on a ways back as time to relax and enjoy the last mile, which is in no way flat.  It was a push to the end. Sarah came out to meet me along with friend Dave Carder who stepped out of his house located at mile 99.5 on the course with a cold beer in hand. The only words I could muster were Sage is coming!!! Keira and Molly joined us less then a 1/4 mile from the finish and ran me to the track. It wasn't until I hit the track that I could finally let off the gas and enjoy the last 200 meters. The reception from the crowd was like no other finish I had experienced at Western States.  I must have gotten close to a hundred high fives from the hands mostly of children as the crowd welcomed and congratulated me trackside. It was my toughest finish to date, not my fastest time or best placement but I crossed the line elated with my 3rd top 10 finish in 4 years.  After 17h 12m 30s I crossed the line and kissed the track.

Jesse Haynes () runs a clinic to finish M10 in 17:12:31.

Congratulations to everyone that crossed the finish line!
Special mention to fellow teammates Jeff Browning for pulling out a podium with 3rd place and Paul Terranova for 17th overall.

Photo: Gary Wang
Thanks need to go out to everyone involved, products, and gear that got me from the start line to the finish:

First and foremost my Crew....wife Keira whose support is constant every day of our lives,  Molly Kassouf, and Sarah Mista.
photo: Scotty Mills


Patagonia Clothing- Strider Pro shorts, Air flow singlet, duckbill cap
Stance Socks
Smartwool socks
2XU Compression Calf sleeves
Altra shoes (Lone Peak, Olympus)
Mountain Hardwear arm sleeves 
Western States Buff
Rudy Project glasses


Vespa- every two hours
Carbo Pro mixed with Fluid electrolyte drink mix
Carbo Pro-Motivator, Vo2 max endurance, Interphase, Recovery Amino
MDrive (Elite Performance, ATP energy)
Coconut Water
Plantain Chips
Orange slices
Coke (its what I survived on the last 15 miles)
250 milligrams Ibuprofen (I hate using it but needed to give it a try)
Guayaki Yerba Matte (tea, shot)
Red Bull 
Succeed S caps
Gu Energy Gels (rootbeer, salted caramel, vanilla bean) no more then 10
Rungoo by Foot Kinetics (reapplied 3 times)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Western States 100

I arrived into Squaw Valley Resort for the 40th running of Western States 100 mile endurance run the Wednesday before the race began. My mind had been here for 10 months. Since I had earned a automatic entry at Waldo 100k August 2012. My prep began with first off trying to get my injury that I had been dealing with since April 2012, rehabilitated. It took some time but finally in February, friend and fellow ultra runner  Dr. Dan Lehnberg ( able to give me an accurate diagnosis of a proximal hamstring injury. With a prescription consisting of  some simple strengthening exercises, coupled with the body work of Joshua Malpass (,and massage therapy at the hands of Holly Miller (, the injury was on the mend. I now needed to regain my fitness and strength that was lost with taking a month off.
My 2013 race schedule:
three 50 milers starting in late March with Old Goats (2nd place), April I raced Leona Divide (104+ degree heat, 6th place after a horrible 30 miles of vomiting), followed by PCT 50 two weeks later (2nd place).
My altitude training was done by trying to get up to high country as often as I could on the weekends.  My heat training was done starting two weeks out from the race as the weather predictions started to come in that it was going to be a hot year. I took advantage of my one hour commute and cranked the heat on high with the windows up, my own personal sauna.
I showed up 3 days early to get whatever acclimatization I could get before the gun went off. A small shake out run and course preview with my lady up to the summit was the final tuneup before the big day.
Although my training regime was rather light with an average week of  46 miles per week in the three months previous, with my largest week of 83 miles coming one month before, I felt I had gotten some great fitness with the three 50 milers, but still felt that I could have or should have done more. Nevertheless here I was, the penultimate day to my first hundo.
I was stressing all day not about the miles but about what I was going to have in my drop bags, and what I needed Keira to bring me at the aid stations where she could see me. I had a couple goals for the race. First goal was to have fun! Is that possible? Its a hundred miles. Well I was going to try. Second was a time goal. I looked at other competitors that I had run with and their times, with this being my first I thought I could be in the 17 hour range. That is until I saw the forecast for extreme heat, so all times were out the window. I did have another goal of finishing in the top 20 overall. There were multiple friends that had the confidence that I would be in the top 10, I would just need to race smart and hold back. The nice thing is I had no pressure on me except for the pressure I put on myself. That pressure became apparent in the form of a headache, that started at the pre race meeting, and just wouldn't go away. It lasted until the early morning, until I finally went to sleep. I woke up race morning with a terrible stiff neck, obviously slept funny, so this had me worried that it would hinder my performance.

Enough of the background. Its GO time
Race was off, started up the service road and found myself running with the boys up front.  I figured this wasn't going to last as I was only interested in going my own pace. But  I found comfort in the fact that I didnt feel I needed to hike as soon as some of the other top guys. But hike I did. Often. I tried to keep my eyes down on the ground and not get caught up in what would be going on up front.  Not sure what position I was in by the time I hit the top and no idea how long it took as I dont wear a watch but I did recognize some faces around me that I knew would have a good finish. I filled both my bottles at the enscarpement one with water one with carbo pro and nuun.
Mile 4, taking it easy

Up and over the top it was now time for some single track downhill. I let a couple runners around me in the first half mile, and soon found myself sandwiched between the two local runners my friend Peter Fain and Rory Bossio. We had an interesting chill run in the mountains, chatting about bears and trying to pick our way through the streams produced by the remaining snow melt. I was satisfied with my race so far and position, until I saw the streak of Mike Morton come shooting by around mile 6. It had me wondering, did I go out too hard to be that far in front of Mike for that long or did he get to the start late?
I took it for what it was and maintained my own pace, slowly working my to Auburn and distancing myself from Peter and Rory, still not worried about position and letting the words of my friend Jon Clark bouncing around in my head " Race with the burning patience of a candle yet the heated inspiration of a wildfire".

Mile 10.5 Lyon Ridge aid station was on me before I knew it. I took on water and was on my way out when someone asked if I wanted to get shot! huh? I said sure and found out it was a pressurized hose. First soaking of the day. Wonderful!
I was still running a comfortable controlled pace with nothing talking to me yet. Except for my stiff neck that I was constantly trying to massage out as I ran, and that seemed to help for pain relief, to do that every once and a while. Not too long after Lyon ridge (10.5) I saw my first animal come out from amongst the trees, it was what we ultra runners know as a speedgoat, returning to the trail from a nature break.  That gave me comfort in knowing that I was feeling good but still on pace with the Great Karl Meltzer, which I was surely convinced would change as this was only mile 12 or 13.  We traded positions not long after as I too needed to see if I could find some poison oak that needed a drink. I spent the next several miles with Byron Powell and a couple others that seemed to be out for more then just casual morning run shown by the amount of sweat there shirts were holding.
Mile 16 Red Star aid station. I was only anticipating to grab my drop bag (fresh supply of Carbo pro, a couple gels, and a homemade energy bar), fill my bottles and head out. I got much more than that.  I got a pep talk and shot of encouragement from the great Jimmy Dean Freeman (his wife Kate would be pacing me from the river to the finish), and a head full of reminders on the strategy we had talked about the night before from the legendary David Horton. They definitely made me feel important and I left there pumped up. Pretty sure even after all that I managed to get out before a couple of the guys I came in with, as all that information was blasted at me in the time it took to fill my bottles.
Next section was more of the same beautiful scenery, small ups and downs, hike the ups and run the downs. I pulled out my cheat sheet of the aid stations to gander at what was coming up and how many miles I had to go to next aid and saw I had 7.8 to go till I hit Duncan Canyon. Pleasantly surprised that I was nearing 20 miles in and was not feeling any sort of fatigue, I came into Duncan Canyon focused on getting in and out and getting on to business. I came in with three other guys and was intent on getting out ahead of them just to avoid breathing their trail dust as I had been doing for the past 3 miles. As the volunteers filled my bottles I partook in the buffet which I limited myself to a couple potatoes and a piece of watermellon, a quick hello to Craig Thornely and a cold soaking from the volunteers and I was off.
Leaving mile 23.8 Duncan canyon was kinda a turning point for me. I felt so GOOD leaving that aid station, I began to run the hills instead of hike them and it felt good to do, if the terrain required me to hike then I would hike it hard. No more then a mile out I saw Karl just ahead. It took me quite a while to catch up to him but I finally passed him at one of the many stream crossings. It felt a little weird to pass someone of his stature.We talked a little bit about the position we were in, he said we were somewhere in the top 20 putting us in perfect position to clean up the carnage that would be happening up front. This section had many stream crossings, which I took advantage of, dousing myself and soaking my INKnBURN buff and shirt keeping me cool as the climb up to Robinson Flat mile 29.7 was starting to get warm.
Photo: Gary Wang

Robinson Flat is the first spot that I got to see Keira which I was excited for. The buzz coming into this aid station was like nothing I had ever seen. The cheers from the spectators were giving me chills. My crew of one had my bottles ready to change out, a bite of avocado sandwich, and a refreshment of Salt Stick pills, Carbo Pro Amino Recovery/ VO2 Max Power pills and my  INKnBURN handhelds filled with new gels and ginger chews. Leaving the aid station was just as loud as when I came in as the spectators were lined up on either side of the road until we hit the trail again. Josh Nordell was there yelling out positions and conditions of runners that were just ahead.
It took me a couple miles to catch up to Nick Pedatella who left the aid station just in front of me by a couple hundred yards. When I finally did catch him we chatted a bit about how the position we were in and how it might lead to a top ten even though we were sitting 16th, 17th. We arrived at Millers Defeat  aid station together, but by the time I was ready to leave Karl had done what he does best and got me and Nick and the other runner we had come into the aid station with.
We were now on a gradual downhill fire road and I again moved past Karl who didn't appear to be hurting, just going a touch slower then me. I put enough space between Karl and myself to get in and out of Dusty Corners (mile 38) without seeing him. I ran the whole next 5.3 mile section almost entirely alone, but just before reaching Last Chance aid station (mile 43.3) I came up on Jacob Rydman, who was moving a lot slower then I figured  he should be because he is one fast dude, as we matched each others pace he told me he had burnt his quads out on the downhill sections.
Aptly named I took advantage of the last chance I had to get cool and ready for the infamous CANYONS. Off with my shirt, on with my Ultraspire pack containing the most important item, an extra water bottle  for the hot journey, my inknburn shirt that I had been draped over my shoulders since Robinson Flat keeping me wet and cool, back around my neck, my inknburn buff filled with ice around my neck, cap filled with ice on my head, bottles refilled and waiting for me, quick ice bath from the wonderful volunteers and I was off. By the time I was done messing around which didn't seem like it was more then 2 minutes, I looked up the trail and saw Karl and Jacob running together just about 20 seconds up, but it didn't frazzle me at all.
The drop down into the canyon was surprisingly steep. It was the first time that my legs started to talk to me. It was mainly my knees that seemed to be the most stressed as I was very cautious not to let the trail dictated my speed and really held back. It only took one or two switchbacks and Karl was out of sight. Jacob was one turn ahead of me for a lot longer then I thought possible given his condition not that long ago, that speaks volumes of his toughness. Before long he graciously stepped aside to let me pass and that was the last I saw of him. Running water was surprisingly plentiful and I took advantage of every last one of them to soak my hat and shirt.
I began the climb up to Devils Thumb (mile 47.8) with the knowledge that I needed to conserve energy due to the predicted heat. I was nearly half way up the climb when I rounded a corner and into my view is Karl coming up behind Dave Mackey and then passing him as they were heading in a right to left direction from my vantage point. I couldn't believe in half the distance up to devils thumb I caught up to Karl and was so surprised to see Dave moving as slow as he was. I knew something was definitely wrong. Was this the start of the carnage? I passed Dave with a few encouraging words and got on to business of pacing myself, focused on climbing strong yet controlled. It only took a few switch backs and just as many minutes to latch on to Karl. As he heard my steps he looked back and said "you see how you do that"? My reply- "I'm watching the master" referring to one of our conversations earlier about just maintaining and cleaning up carnage. I was content to sit where I was and didn't feel the need to push any harder at this point to get around him or I would just end up in his clutches a couple miles down the trail. So far the two of us had passed each other 3 separate times. We hit the aid station together and I couldn't help but think that wasn't sooooo bad. For me the descent was worse then the climb by far.
The aid station volunteers were amazing again, grabbing my bottles to fill them up, my drop bag was opened and set on a table ready for me to grab my supplies, another buff full of ice, a cold shower and after my cold shower and walking out I was fed information on the condition of the runners just ahead of me.
I again took it pretty easy on the descent to Eldorado Creek remembering that I had been told the hardest thing about states is being able to hold back to save the legs by the veterans.
Somehow in this reserved pace I caught up to fellow Rudy Project team member Yassine Diboune. I was excited to see him and as I approached I said here we are again! Over the past season Yassine and I have run together in a couple big races and find at some point other then the start line we will be together. He was not feeling quite as good as me but we stuck together until we reached the El Dorado Creek aid station (mile 52.9) I was starting to have some stomach issues so I had a bit of ginger ale, another soaking of ice water and off to the climb.
We left together but as we began the climb I started to put a gap on him. Yassine is a tough dude to shake. I remember back to Waldo 100k last year when I finally caught him at mile 50 and as much as he was hurting he just would not let me go. That made me push just a little harder to try to gap him. I made it to Michigan Bluff (mile 55.7) excited to see Keira as it was only the second time of the day that I was able to see her. I knew she would have some refreshing surprises for me, she always does. Its nice to come into an aid station and not have to think about what you need to get into your body for the next sections and Keira is the master at crewing. I still wasn't concerned about my position and not really ready to chase anyone down, but Keira was now joined by Kate Freeman (pacing me from mile 80 to the finish)  and another friend Dave Carter were all feeding me information about the guys in front of me not looking so good, and that did get me fired up, because besides feeling a little bloated, I felt strong. Thinking the hottest portion of the race was over I almost got rid of all my cooling apparatus until Kate suggested I keep my hat and fill it with ice. GOOD CALL! Keira followed me up the road for a last little bit of encouragement and sent me on my way. I now had one last 5 mile section before I picked up Marc to pace me. Only a mile or so into this section and I was sorry that I had left my shirt and my buff as the heat was now very apparent.
I reached Bath Road (mile 60.6) and Marc was ready and waiting. He was so excited for me, and was intent on telling me how awesome I was doing and letting me know how the guys ahead were looking. We started the climb up the Black Top road and only made it about a quarter mile and there was Keira and Kate heading down to try and meet me before I reached foresthill  so that I could get calories in before I reached the aid station to save on time. It was uplifting to be able to hike along with them for this little section

Leaving forest hill mile 62 , my pacer Marc Laveson and I were in perfect sync photo: Paul Grimes
Forest Hill (mile 62)
This is where the race starts, so they say. I had met for the first time the night before legendary David Horton, at dinner he told me with the heat the way its going to be I should hold off until Green Gate. Those words stuck with me.With the energizing lift I got from seeing Keira, to picking up Marc, to the cheers from the spectators that lined the streets for the quarter mile stretch to get to the trail, and the fact that I was still feeling strong, I have to admit it was very tough to hold back. There was quite a bit of downhill in this section and it felt so good to just run, but at the same time I didn't want to destroy my legs, there were still 38 miles left. As we were coming in to Cal 1 aid station (mile 65.7) we informed by a bystander that the next runner was only 1 min up on me. My mind told me that it was Karl, after all we had been back and forth since mile 12, who else could it be?  I was so focused on getting refilled, cooled off and leaving that I didn't even see who we had caught. It was less then 30 secs from arrival to departure but as Marc and I left the aid station, the other runners were already out of sight. This was now officially the furthest I had ever run continually, and although I wanted to chase them down I was still intent on just keeping a consistent pace and not overdoing it. Turned out my pace was just a bit faster and we were able to close in on the runner that turned out to be Paul Terranova. We caught and passed Paul and his pacer at the exact moment that we came up on Jorge Maravilla moving very slowly. I wasn't sure of the position I was in but Marc was, affirming that I had just run that last section super strong and that I was now in the top 10. I have to admit that was a pretty good feeling, now all I needed to do was hold it.  That was short lived as Paul and I swapped spots as he caught and passed me at  Cal 2 aid station (mile70.7). I was more determined to just run a consistent tempo then I was to catch back up to Paul and get my top 10 position back but as it turned out the next  2.3 mile section had another big surprise was waiting for me. On the way to Cal 3 not only did we catch and pass Paul and regain position 10, we also passed a visibly hurting Hal Koerner. Now running in ninth place we came into the Cal 3 aid station (mile 73) and saw a shirtless runner sitting in a chair, who I later found out was Jeremy Humphrey's. One of the volunteers told me "that guys been sitting there for a long time,as soon as you came in he jumped up and said we gotta get out of here".  All of this action in such a short time really got me fired up, but I knew I still needed to take it easy. The heat was finally noticeable, it felt like an oven, every time we came out of the shade of the trees, the heat from the sun was just intense. It took nearly the full 5 miles section to catch up to Jeremy, but when we finally did, Paul and his pacer were on us. It was pretty much a race for the river at that point. I couldn't believe after 78 miles it was a 3 man (6 with pacers) race for the river.

Marc and I won the race inside the race and as we put our life vests on I was reaching for some food from the aid station and noticed Paul heading down for the boat. I had heard it was going to be a water crossing by foot, so I was surprised. I said out loud, we are taking a boat across? A volunteer replied, yes but you need to wait for the next one. My reply, Can we jump in the same one? Volunteer, I guess so. I yelled to Marc, lets go!
photo: Gary Wang-Sharing a boat ride 

photo:Luis Escobar

Upon reaching the other side Marc and I were first out, I did a quick full body submersion for a few seconds and took off up the road ahead of Paul working our way up to Green Gate, where I was to pick up Kate. She was on her way down to meet us, reaching us with a mile left to climb. That whole scenario with the river crossing got me into race mode. We were hiking fast, I was feeling good. We caught and passed Karl for what would be the final time, making it 66 miles and never really more then 10 minutes apart the entire day. I was now in 7th place, and as soon as Kate let out her So Cal Coyote howl, I could hear Keira going crazy. I think at that point she was more excited then I was. Last time she saw me I was running 12th. Along with the refreshments, I made a much needed shoe and sock change. Messing with the shoes put me back into 8th as Paul scooted around me. Loss of position was well worth it, to have happy feet. I now had Kate with me for the final 20 miles. My legs and mind were still feeling good, but I wasn't without problems, as my stomach was a bit bloated, but nothing I couldn't handle for 20 miles. We caught and passed Paul in the 5.4 mile stretch to Auburn Lake Trails (mile 85.2). We reached the aid station almost together, but Paul managed to get out before us as I was busy grabbing my head lamp from my drop bag and intent on getting some chicken broth and ginger ale, a little secret Marc had given me that helped him out at San Diego 100.  I told Kate that I intended to just run smooth consistent pace and if we caught him then cool, but I wanted to save a hard effort until after the next aid station. The pass came a lot quicker then I thought it would, less then a half mile after leaving the aid station. We were now running to beat the darkness, trying to cover as much ground before we need our headlamps. It just so happened this transition between light and dark came on a very rocky portion of the course. We came into Brown's Bar (mile 89.9), took on some more chicken broth and ginger ale and were gone with no sign of Paul, what a relief. It was 24 miles of back and forth passing each other 5 or 6 times. I wasn't counting on him being gone though, so I was still pushing hard. Hwy 49 (mile 93.5) was the final spot we had planned to see Keira. Kate traded out her head lamp for one that was more functional for her, I got more ginger ale and as we left I heard Keira tell Kate to get me in under 18 hours. We pushed as hard as our eye- foot coordination would allow with artificial light . We ran right through No Hands Bridge (mile 96.8) without stopping. A quick glance back as we on our final climb up to Robie Point (98.9) and I thought I saw and may have seen a headlamp not far off. I told Kate this is it lets GO! I am not going to let him pass me in the final mile! We again ran right through the final aid station and I busted into a sprint. It was a pretty steep hill leading up to the final descent to the Placer High School and it was on the descent that I knew my position was secure, I backed off my sprint pace which was probably only 7 minute miles and ran the last half mile in with Kate and Keira. I  hit the track and rounded the final corner overwhelmed by the cheers and elated that I had not only finished my first hundred mile race but that I was in the top 10 with a 7th place finish in 17:44.

I am forever jaded with the spectacle that is Western States, it truly deserves the title BIG SHOW. 
I would like to thank Craig Thornley who did a fantastic job as race director ( it was great seeing him out on the course so many times), the aid station volunteers that made me feel like they were my own personal crew.
Carbo Pro for making the products I needed to get it done (Carbo Pro carbohydrate powder, Recovery Amino pills, VO2 Max power pills)
Salt Stick for keeping me salty
INKnBURN for the functional equipment, clothing, and rad designs ( the hand helds kept my drinks ice cold the entire time)
Rudy Project for the technically cool eyewear
Petzel headlamps for lighting the way
M-Drive Elite
Marc Laveson for helping me from p12 to p7
Kate Martini Freeman for helping me hold p7 and being sexy
Keira Henninger for being the most incredible woman on earth and taking care of me ALWAYS. love you!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Waldo 100k (106k)

If there's one thing you can count on it's that, things rarely go as planned. For starters my plan for Waldo 100k was to be fully recovered from my hamstring injury that I suffered in April and had carried with me into Miwok 100k.  After all Miwok was May 5 and Waldo was over 3 months away.  It's just so difficult to avoid going out and running, when so many of your friends and your girlfriend are training for 100 mile races. With the many weekend runs that were planned up in the mountains at high elevations and the extremely scenic routes these runs involved, it's tough to stay away.  Although Joshua Malpass with OC Rolfing did an amazing job of keeping the injury at bay, eventually I had to give in and give myself a 2 week break, problem was that it was three weeks out from the race, not the best timing, that should be my high volume weeks before I take a week of very low training if any at all. I signed up for Waldo with the intentions of trying to qualify for a spot into Western States 100, that meant finishing in the top two. A lofty goal but one I was hoping for. At this point I had no choice but to set my aspirations aside and change my plan to, just head out onto the trails for a day of playing on the best single track course anywhere.
Then the Wednesday night before the race, another monkey wrench thrown into the 2012 Waldo plans. Race director Craig Thornley sent out an email stating that a fire had been started by a lightning strike and was unsure at this time what implications it would have on the race, and that he would keep us updated as soon as he knew. The next day my girlfriend Keira told me that the fire was still smoldering, but still no word as to whether or not the race was canceled. As I packed for the race that night Keira being a race director herself, assured me that this was Craig Thornley race director extraordinare, and that he would figure something out. We were on our flight headed to OR the next morning still unsure if the race was going to happen. Whatever the outcome, we knew that we would at least get to run some big miles up there even if it was just for fun and we would still have a blast. As soon as we landed we had word that the plans for the Waldo 100k did indeed change and that the race would be rerouted around the burned section, making it now the Waldo 106k.
At the pre race briefing Craig was as cool as a cucumber as if the course change and the problem with the fire was no problem at all. We had our course description and an explanation of the many different awards that were up for grabs by co race director Meghan Arbogast, including the description of the Wheres Waldo Award.
Keira and I went over our crewing game plan as far as what calories and fluids I wanted at the selected aid stations she could get to. Little did we know that even this would not go as planned.
Race morning came early at 4am, but I woke up feeling rested and ready to go. After putting down a few calories we headed to the ski lodge around 4:30 am. I did a easy 10 min warm up due to the fact that the race starts straight away up a ski hill and I know no matter how much I plan on going out easy it rarely goes out as slow as I would like, and with two spots for entry into western states being given out to both the men and the women this race would be a fairly quick one.
After a quick hello to a few of the competitors that was hoping to get to run on the trails and a hi five from Meghan as she made her way across the front of the start line, we were off on our 66 mile journey.
The plan was not to go out fast, but as the lights from the ski hill faded and the headlamps took over and the group began to thin to what seemed to be a dozen or so runners, Jacob Rydman decided the pace of the group was not for him. As he slowly made his way off the front I guess Timothy Olsen was not willing to let him go or maybe it was just that Jacobs pace was exactly what he needed.
With the group dwindling smaller and smaller, I began to power hike and watch the two guys up front climbing away. With only two guys in front of me now sitting in third place maybe 10 minutes into the race, it wasn't hard to know who was behind me, as Yassine Diboun and  fellow Rudy Project teammate is never short of conversation. Although I didn't really plan on being in front of him it was good to know that he was still right there as I was hoping to get to run with him that day. Not too long after I began to hike I could hear footsteps coming up on me with heavy breathing. Much to my surprise it was Joelle Vaught and Alison Bryant going step for step up the mountain. I practiced self-restraint quite a bit as I watched  these two women jog their way up the mountain and away from me, but I wasn't about to destroy my race by going beyond my early race limits. I usually don't even start to race until I start to hurt, the first portion of any race is my time to just enjoy the trails. I managed to keep the two ladies in site by hiking like Keira would to save my energy for the latter portion of the race, a strategy that got her a win and ninth place overall finish at the Angeles Crest 100 mile back in July.
I was finally able to catch the ladies as we began descending and not long afterward came up on Timothy Olsen, with Ian Sharman joining us not more then a couple minutes later. I could tell Timothy was out having fun on the trails as he would jump over rocks and trail furniture as if he was a deer. We came into Gold Lake aid station mile 7.4, within seconds of each other. As we left and crossed the road this was the first unplanned spots I got to see Keira. She gave me a carbo pro shot and a dose of encouragement. I really couldn't believe I was keeping pace with runners of such caliber, with Timothy coming of his course record western states 100 mile win, Ian Sharman owning the Rocky Racoon 100 mile course record, and Jacob who obviously knew of his own abilities, taking it to the course and putting it all on the line. As we started the next section up to mount Fugi, the three guys put about 20 seconds on me but still visible, as I could see Timothy and Jacob begin to gap Ian on the climbs. It was only a matter of minutes and  I was on Sharman's heals, that is until we hit the downhill part of the rolling sections, where he would pull away. Next aid station Fugi Mt mile 12.4 was where we had decided I would see Keira, but she was not there. The aid station directions on the web site pointed out that it was a 1/4 mile hike in so I imagined we would be possibly crossing a road shortly where she must be. After what seemed to be about a mile I finally gave up on the fact that I would actually see her and would be heading to the summit without the planned carbo pro I was hoping to take up with me and back down and to the aid station we had just come from, which would be a  2.5 mile round trip. Ian and I wound our way up the climb together and were only a minute or so from the summit when we saw Jacob and then Timothy nearly step for step who appeared to be enjoying themselves flying down the descent. I  hit the summit just ahead of Ian, paused for a moment to glance around, and took off for my own high speed technical descent with Ian right on my heels, thinking he would be ready to pass me at any moment, but I kept the pressure on as I was lost in the concentration it took to keep your feet moving and avoid tripping and taking a rock right to the face.  Judging by the point at which I saw Yassine I figured he was three to four minutes back with Joelle and Alison not far from him.  As we hit the Fugi aid station again now mile 14.9, I made sure I filled up both my bottles because at this point I forgot which aid stations and what distances I had planned on seeing Keira, although I had full confidence she would make certain she would be where she could be, but I had no idea where that was.  So with full bottles and still plenty of fuel in the form of gels, I was off to see what the next section of this beautiful course had in store for me. With mount Fugi being an out and back I got to see some of my southern california friends working there way up.  Always nice to get and give encouragement from and to friends. Again I could hear Ian's footsteps not far behind, but after a couple miles and a few uphill rollers I didn't hear him anymore. I may have been running a little faster then I should have in this section, but I was enjoying the soft trails and light rain that had begun to descend upon us. Before I knew it I was at a road and the next aid station which was Mt Ray mile 20.5. Keira was here and  she of course had a slew of stuff for me including chocolate, fresh handhelds, and the usual premix of carbo pro to pound down.  Before the race began we had a plan to change the way I took my carbo pro, but not knowing if she would get to the planned aid stations, I asked her to switch back to my old method of running with a bottle of carbo pro and nuun in one handheld and water in the other. A couple miles out of the aid station I came upon co race director Meghan who stationed herself at a critical junction to make sure we took the reroute turn on the course away from where the Bobby fire had been burning. She seemed surprised to see me, not sure if it was because of my placement or more of where I was in relation to Olsen and Rydman. Nonetheless she cautioned me  "Don't be silly", that was advice I probably could have used 10 miles earlier as not long after seeing her I began to feel the effects of the long fast decent off Mt Fugi.  This section of the reroute, included a 3/4 mile portion of pavement.  I really need to thank the mountain biking volunteer that rode along side and accompanied every runner up the blacktop to make sure we knew where the reroute turns were and for keeping me real. I soooo wanted to walk that portion but just couldn't bring myself to do it with someone by my side, so a big thank you to that volunteer. Heading to the next aid station I passed the volunteers as they were bringing water in with a powered wheel barrow, now that's dedication and determination from the Twins double aid station volunteers. I hit the Twins aid station at mile 27,  took a quick top off on water and was on my way, the next time I would see them would be 17 miles later. This next section had a few easy ups with a number of  small rollers mixed in with a  bit off a down hill grade. A section that you could definetly cruise on. That is if you dont have a injury that affects a smooth long stride that would lend itself to a fast decent. This is where Yassine came up on me, we talked a bit and in a couple minutes I told him to just go because I knew that my form was gone and I was just slowing him down. I spent the next couple miles in my own private misery. My hamstrings were getting really tight and my butt was now hurting pretty bad. Next aid station Charlton Lake mile 32,
coming into Charlton Lake aid station
Keira had fresh handhelds and a Guayaki yerba matte energy shot, along with avocado. As I refueled, I used the opportunity to stretch out my legs which were shaking uncontrollably. At that point I told her that I needed some pain medication at the next stop.  I didn't want to use anything with all of the horror stories about how bad it is for your kidneys, and this would be the 3rd 100k in a row that I would need to use it. The next 5 mile section was tough for me as it seemed to be fairly flat, and I always have a trouble running the flats. Next aid station 37.2  Rd 4290 was more of the same from crew Keira, avocado, fresh handhelds, watermelon, and much needed ibuprofen. It took about a half hour for the ibuprofen to kick in but as soon as it did I was able to finally get my stride back and I worked my way up the Twin peak and down to the aid station 44.7 miles in, pounded a couple cups of coke and was off on my way to chase down Yassine. Although I had no idea how much time and distance he had put on me. It seemed like it took forever to get to the next aid station but it felt like I was running pretty good and starting to feel strong again, which showed by the situation that I came upon at the next aid station. This looked a lot like the first aid station of the day but I have no idea what mile into the race we were, due to course changes because of the fire, and also because I never really know what mile I am at unless I memorize the aid station distance or know the course. As I approached the aid station I saw Yassine was just leaving. I filled up my bottles and took on some coke knowing the catch was imminent. The volunteers fired me up telling me that the western states ticket was just ahead of me. I hadn't even thought about it until then, knowing the race would be long and a lot can happen from start to finish. I started off the slight up hill running after Yassine who was now out of sight but probably only a couple hundred meters ahead. As the gap diminished and I closed in on Yassine I could tell he was fatigued as I caught him right as the single track and the real climbing began. I tucked in behind Yassine as my Rudy Project teammate gave me some insight on what lay ahead for us with the climb up to Maiden Peak. We also talked about the Western States ticket that would be in the hands of whoever was able to beat the other to the line. I took this opportunity for conversation and a little slower pace that comes with conversation for a bit of recovery from my hard push to catch Yassine. We hid the next aid station, which was kind of like a nice surprise to me as it seemed maybe Craig Thornley just threw it in there to make up for the extra mileage that the reroute incurred. The volunteers at this aid station were awesome as they were so excited for both of us knowing that one of us would get the ticket to WS. I was a still unsure if there was someone else that was close to us in fifth place so I took the lead out of this aid station to put in a good effort to make it up to the top of Maiden peak. I tried to drop Yassine in this section by hiking hard and running on the grades that were less steep, but to no avail. He was stuck to me like glue. We made it to the top of Maiden together which was a situation we had talked about days before the race began. On our descent off the peak Yassine took the lead, I was following only a few meters away trying to negotiate the super technical rocky terrain, that is until he took a right turn as the trail was not clear due to the rocky nature. As he went right I noticed the markers taking us left, I yelled that he was off trail. I recognized this as my time to fly going  into animal style and pushed hard on this technical section,
Coming down off Maiden peak
 quickly coming up on the next aid station. Again the volunteers were eager to show their excitement for me as the third place person and running for the final WS ticket. I left the aid station thinking that Yassine should be right on my heels, I looked to my right and up the trail I had just come down but I didn't see him.  The cheers and encouragement coming from the aid station told me he was about 20 to 30 seconds away. From that moment on I was running scared trying to put distance between us. I knew it was about 7 miles to the finish so I was still trying to take care of my hydration and nutrition although it gets tough to do after hours and hours of running. The miles kept clicking away and I took every opportunity to check behind me to see if Yassine was getting close. Finally I saw the finish line come into view and it wasn't until that moment that I knew I had the ticket to the Big Show,  Western States 100, as I crossed the line finishing the longest run of my life in a time of 10:31:28. Wow I couldn't believe it. I had hoped and wanted but never really expected it to happen. I had just accomplished something that was seemingly unattainable. I got my finisher hat from Craig Thornley and a congratulatory hug. I was next greeted by an ecstatic Keira, who I think was more excited then I was. I still didn't know who had won, but as Timothy Olson congratulated me on my WS entry, I asked if he came out on top. All it took was a smile from him and I knew. He had finished  9:52:19, 4:23 ahead of Jacob Rydman who was still lying on the ground had his ticket to WS dangling on his bare toe, who was taking a well deserved rest after putting in a unbeliveable effort. He had run off the front for the majority of the race.  But to hold off the current WS record holder would have been an amazing feat. I knew Yassine couldn't be that far behind me, as he came in 4:18 seconds behind with a time of 10:35:06. Joelle Vaught was first in for the women with a time of 11:04:26 and 6th overall with Denise Bourassa taking 7th overall and 2nd woman with a time of 11:22:34 and Alison Bryant taking 9th overall and 3rd woman with a time of 11:47:04. My thanks go out to Craig and Meghan for persevering under adversity to make this race happen under such extraordinary circumstances. To the firefighters that kept the Bobby fire at bay. To the volunteers out on the course and at the finish line for keeping us fueled and safe. To Michael Lebowitz and Long Run Picture company for all of the amazing photos. Ink n Burn for the cutting edge designs and super comfortable shirts, shorts, and sweat bands. Salt Stick salt tabs that kept me from cramping all day. Smartwool Socks that always keep my feet blister free. Brooks pure grit running shoes that performed flawlessly. Big thank you goes to Keira that is always there to keep me going with nourishment and encouragement, couldn't have done it without you. This is a course that I will definitely visit again.                          

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Miwok 100k

Time to blow the dust off the keyboard. Since Bandera 100k  I really haven't had much to report about.  I had quite a few races on the radar but due to injury, I was either unable to complete them or unable to start.  In February Keira and I took a trip up to Washington to do the Orcas Island  50 K. But going into the race with an IT band problem I only made it 16 miles into the race, and ended up hobbling back the 8 miles that I was away from the start and finish line.  At that point in time I knew I needed to lay off the racing and training and give my body a break. That meant the races I had on my schedule, Old Goats 50, and  Zane Grey 50  were no longer possible. After one month of no running and another month of a very low mileage,  I began aggressively training and in the process caused a new injury to my hamstring at the attachment point up by my glute.( I had a pain in my ass!) on the opposite leg of the IT band. With two weeks of therapy, and a burning desire to not only race but to see what type of shape I was in I decided to race the San Juan Trail 50k. I had a respectable time although the distance was a bit short of a 50k. I don't feel that racing exasperated the bad hamstring, but it didn't help.
Going into Miwok I still had not done a training run or a race over 27 miles, With my longest training week being 80 miles and average being about 50. At the start line I was still tentative about whether or not I would have a good race. I had a week of poor sleeping as I was covered in poison oak that I received during the  marking of Keira's Leona Divide 50 mile course. I came around one corner that had the nasty oily leafed foe growing next to and leaning over into the trail. So armed with only a stick and wearing only my shorts and shoes I proceeded to hack it down. Well unknowingly every swat was spraying the oil on me. No I didn't wash with Technu as I didn't have any and didn't think I needed it, as I never touched it. Boy was I wrong. Anyway I went in with no elaborate plan, and my only strategy being  to enjoy these new trails in a new place and to run my own race. But come what may here I was on the start line, lined up next to fellow Rudy Project teammate and friend Chris Price, who was my pick to win it, with the knowledge that he has just been killing it, with his third place finish at Keira's inaugural Ray Miller 50 miler, and his win and new course record at the Old Goats 50 miler a little bit more then a month previous. That was until I saw Ultrarunner of the year Dave Mackey who was on the entrants list but had heard he was not going to race. Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see, right?
5 AM start Mile  0 - 6.1 Stinson Beach to  Bolinas Ridge aid station:
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama
We started out pretty mellow with Dave and Chris being the only two faces in the lead pack that I recognized. We were a pretty large group as we started to make our across Hwy 1 and up a blacktop road. I didn't really want to be out front, but the pace was mellow and lent  itself to a large group running together, and I figured I would at least run with my buddy for as long as I felt comfortable.  The need for headlamps was apparent as Chris let us up the blacktop road and around a right hand corner while the markings for the trail told us to go left. In the darkness we did not see the markers but someone in the group yelled trail this way! At which point we turned around, now about 10 people back and now on singletrack.
Not too worried about my placement at this point. But as we continue up up up up and away I knew Chris was behind me, and would be itching to get around and get up to the front where he likes to run. As he worked his way up through the line I finally heard him come up behind me and I stepped off trail to let him by. It was only a minute or two before I  began to be annoyed with a couple of other runners in front of me, one for having his headphones on so loud that I could hear the music and the next one tripping over rocks and stumps. I also  felt the pace was a little slow, and saw Chris and Dave up ahead starting to break away from the pack, so I sprinted around the four or five runners that separated us, and slowly worked my way up to Chris and Dave. It didn't take long and I  noticed that I had started sweating. Although I didn't feel the pace was that fast, sweating was a good sign that I needed to slow down. I settled into a pace  that I was comfortable with. Dave and Chris would put a little gap on me as we hit the uphills and I would close on the descents. We carried on this way as the full moon now big and orange, lit the ocean waters that was now very visible as we ran through the open grassy singletrack area that was off camber, wet, and  barely visible, as the light was still dim and the grass and thistles were drooping over, hiding the uneven trail. After a bit of winding through up and around and out of  this grassy area and into a wooded section it was soon just me Dave and Chris. That was short lived as another runner came up on us, which  I was not too happy about, because I had the need to relive myself of my morning hot chocolate and seeming perfect hydration. I allowed him to go around me so that I could implement a skill that I have learned that if you can do as you run, slows you down a little bit but not nearly as much as stopping. I took a gel just before the Bolinas Ridge aid station which I had no idea we were coming up on, as I don't wear any sort of timing or gps system.  But it worked perfectly, gel, chased down with the remainder of my water and here was the fill up.
Mile 6.1 to 12.6 Bolinas Ridge to Randall Trail:
After a quick splash and go, and a  thank you to the aid station volunteers, we were off and  running again. Dave and Chris out first and then me and Marc Laveson. With all the excitement and activities going on in the aid station I  forgot to shed the headlamp! The next section was a roller coaster of ups and downs that lead us up to a beautiful vista that looking out to the east showed off the morning sun rise that caused me to be lost in the moment and reminded me that this is why I love to be out on the trails. It also was the section that led us into the soft forest floor of giant redwood. It wasn't really a group of four but rather two groups of two as me and Marc ran just a few seconds behind  Chris and Dave for the next few miles. As we began the descent down to the  Randall  Trail aid station this is where Dave and Chris really started to go, with Mark not far behind. It was at this point that I could feel my back beginning to tighten up and my breathing becoming labored, so I decided to back off and not chase. As we the trail switched back and forth I could see Chris had pulled a little in front of Dave and looked as if Marc was giving chase. Soon they were out of sight and the only indication that I had of there distance from me was when I heard the screams from the aid station. Just before I had a visual on the aid station I saw Chris returning back up with Dave not too far behind. There are some good highlights of this section that was posted to you tube by Jim Vernon, titled, 2012 Miwok 100 Trail Run . As I was coming in I saw Keira ready and waiting to switch out my bottles, one with water and the other with my secret mix. I didn't even break stride, just tossed my old bottles, and  headlamp, grabbed my replacement,s and turned around to head back up.  I Saved a lot of time with this because as I started up I could still see Dave just around 50 meters up on me, and Marc, who had arrived at the aid station ahead of me was now back behind me. Dave and Chris in at 1:42:00 and Me and Marc in at 1:43:00
Photo: Karen Bonnett

Mile 12.6 to 19.1 Randall Trail to Bolinas Ridge:
As I turned to head up I thought I would give my hamstring a little test and put in a little turn of speed and force my body to do a little work on this climb to see how it would react. As we started up I could see Chris and Dave for a couple of the turns but it wasn't long before they were out of sight. This being an out and back I could also see how close everyone else was to me. The gaps back were not huge but there was a little cushion as long as I could hold my pace. But it was still early and a lot could change. This was a very fun section for me, as I got to see all of my friends that were running in this year's Miwok as well as every other runner that had started the race. They energy and excitement from all of my friends and other participants seemed to help me along. Although it seemed that Marc was able to catch me with great ease at the start of the climb back up to Bolinas, I kept waiting for the moment when  he would just  fly around me. It never happened. Instead he would close the gap and the next thing I knew I would put some distance on him, we yo-yoed like this all the way to the next aid station. I kept getting updates from the other runners that the leaders were only a couple hundred yards up, but I  never saw Dave and Chris, and at that point I didn't even care. I was just happy to be in the position I was in and had Keira's words ringing in my ears to just run your own race and enjoy yourself.  I hit Bolinas Ridge aid station for my second and final time and was happy to be still feeling rather fresh, the tightness in my back had now loosened up. It was another quick stop, one water bottle fill up and one piece of cantaloupe in hand and I was off.

Mile 19.1 to 26.2 Bolinas Ridge to Stinson Fire Department
I was only a short distance from the aid station on the single track when I lost concentration for a split second and rolled my ankle, it wasn't bad enough to cause massive swelling as I was quick enough to transfer my weight off of it.  I knew what I needed to do and that was to  just keep running on it and it would stay loose. Marc was soon with me again and we ran together back through the of camber grassy singletrack.
photo:Brett Rivers

Photo: John Medinger

 This did not feel good on the ankle. I kept trying to look up in the distance to try and catch a glimpse of Dave or Chris as the last I heard from the volunteers at the aid station was that I was 4 minutes down. Then as I rounded one corner there was Daves white shirt off in the distance. But could not take my eyes off the trail long enough to see if Chris was with, ahead, or behind him. I think it was his green shirt that made him blend in with the green grass that made him impossible to see (perfect plan my friend!) or maybe he was just that far out of sight. The descent down to the Stinson Beach fire station, I took it a  little easy due to my rolled ankle, although I really wanted to rip it as I was feeling pretty good considering how far into the race we were and my low training mileage. I came into the the 26.2 aid station in good spirits, how could you not with a large crowd cheering you on. I was pumped to see Keira again, who had my fresh bottles ready and waiting. I nearly did a flyby hand off until I remembered that my Salt Stick salt pills were in my water bottle pocket that I had just tossed and saw that Elissa Price had my Rudy glasses in her hands, so I stopped for both only briefly. Oh yeah and decided to loose my INKnBURN  Socal Coyotes shirt. As I took off Keira yelled out that Chris was 6 minutes up on me. Me and Marc came in pretty much together at 3:34:00
photo: Chan-Chan

Mile 26.2 to 33.5  Stinson Fire Dept to Muir Beach
Well this stint didn't start out too well. Your on blacktop road and you make your way down to what I think may have been hwy 1, turn left and then you are SUPPOSE to continue straight following the orange ribbon hanging all over the trees on the side of the road that leads you to the trail about 100 meters up. But not me, no, I turn the corner and then take my immediate next left onto someones driveway that leads up to there house. I was wondering why I didn't see any trail markings as I was heading up the road. Keira and I always say when we mark the turns at her races that you have to be a re-tard to miss this turn. Well on this day I was definitely a retard. As soon as I came back down and looked left there I saw plain as day all the ribbons leading the way to the trail. That cost me about 2 minutes, and put me back into 4th as Marc scooted around me into 3rd while I was off adding distance and checking out the neighborhood around Stinson Beach. I hit the trail and was back on track and after about a half mile noticed Marc about 30 seconds up on me. I slowly worked my way up to him, finally catching him as we hit the Dipsea steps. I hiked, yes hiked past him. Telling him that I don't care what I've heard how if your going to finish this race in the top 10 that you have to run the whole course. I'm hiking these steps. And he agreed. We developed a sort of pacing friendship out there on the course. Didn't really talk much but silently kept each other company. I made it to the top ahead of Marc, but felt my hamstring starting to give me some trouble. I hit the bottom of the descent and tried to get my turnover going on the one of only 2 FLAT sections of the whole Miwok course, leading to the Muir beach aid station.  As I ran into the aid station there was Keira with a  fresh bottle in hand and another bottle that she handed to me with the words "drink all of this"! I didn't know its contents and didn't bother to ask, just followed orders. What I did know was that she had a bag full of watermelon that I reached into a took a handful of. I also voiced that I need some ibuprofen at the next stop, Tennessee Valley. Her reply was that she couldn't get there due to road construction. Although it was great to see Keira at the aid stations, for a quick shot of enthusiastic encouragement and for quick transitions, I had already prepared for her not to make it there by sending a drop bag that would be waiting at Tennessee Valley with everything I needed to make my 20 mile round trip, except for ibuprofen.  I now had to prepare myself for a long painful 20 miles of trails before I would be back to this aid station and get some pain medication.

Mile 33.5 to 38.1  Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley
As I headed out from the aid station I saw Marc heading in, so I knew that he had fallen off my pace a little bit as we had previously been step for step into each aid station, but now a little over a minute back. I turned the corner to make my way up the first climb, and there was Jim Vernon again with his camera, filming as I climbed. He was feeding me course info, telling me the splits for Chris and Dave and giving me a boost of confidence as he said I was looking fresher then the other two. I turned to look down as I approached the top of the short climb and saw Marc in pursuit but no one else heading in to the aid station. That was a good sign. The open fire roads were steep and long, providing good opportunity to see ahead and behind. I kept looking up but saw neither Dave or Chris in the distance. I only looked back a couple of times but each time I was not able to make out Marc's blue jersey. My gait had started to change due to the hamstring and I could feel the other muscles in my leg beginning to fatigue. I started to see more and more hikers and runners out enjoying the beautiful San Francisco weather and as I descended on the singletrack leading into the Tennessee valley I kept getting reports from them on my placement and distance behind what would now be just Chris because they would say your not too far back. That was encouraging news. As I started to near the blacktop road I could see a lot of parked cars and  hear crowd chatter and figured the aid station must be just ahead. I began planning out what I needed from my drop bag but as I hit the 200 foot stretch of  blacktop that leads you to the aid station, there was my Keira with fresh bottles and a slew of stuff to drink and most importantly some ibuprofen. Such a nice surprise and SO needed.  So off I went with my hands full, two bottles in one hand and oranges and a couple potatoes in the other. The update was that Dave was 16 and Chris was 8 minutes up on me. I guess not too far back is a matter of perspective.

Mile 38.1 to 42.8 Tennessee Valley to Bridgeview
This section started with for a little change a long gradual climb. The gradient was runnable but the legs said walk, that is until I looked back about halfway up it, maybe a bit over a half mile from the aid station. What I saw was not Marc's blue shirt but rather an orange shirt and it was moving pretty fast. I didn't know if it was a racer or just someone out on a training run, but I couldn't take any chances, so I picked my pace up a bit. I was hoping the pain meds would kick in pretty quick as the hammy was hurting pretty good. The only thing that seemed to help was to keep my hand on my butt and push on the muscle as I engaged it, but that would only work on the uphills, on the downs all bets were off and I just had to deal with it. I don't remember a lot of this section but I do remember the view of the golden gate bridge and the last downhill coming into the aid station and the inspirational signs that were posted on the sides of the trail that I was barely able to get a glimpse of as I was too worried about my footing. The volunteers at this aid station were great in the fact that they ran at me to get my bottles and fill them with what I needed. Just fill em up with water I said, as I had my Nuun ready to drop in and go. One piece of melon, a small cup of coke, full bottles and I was out in less then 30 seconds. Time gap at this aid station was exactly as it was at Tennessee Valley. So I was able to maintain or at least match Dave and Chris. 42.8 miles Dave Mackey 6:00 hours, Chris Price 6:08, Myself in at 6:16

Mile 42.8 to 50.5 Bridgeview to Tennessee Valley
I now began to switch my gaze from behind me to in front of me to see if I could catch a glimpse of Daves white shirt or Chris's bare back, as I was sure he had dropped his shirt already (actually surprised he even started with a shirt to begin with). I had no idea where the course went, but the open expanse displayed many trails and open roads which lead me to think I might catch sight of the prey. Not exactly ready or even able to go hunting at this point but would have still been nice to have them in sight. Yeah I never saw them. Had a nice descent that ended with a left turn through a gate which I took advantage of as a stretching apparatus for my hamstrings. The next mile or so the trail began to close in and soon the trail enemy began to show its ugly face, POISON OAK! I took great care to touch nothing green but was very glad that I was wearing my INKnBURN leg sleeves which protected me very well I must say. Came up onto a road crossing where the volunteers were waiting to make sure we made it safely across. Another mile or so and I hit the beach, to do a little bit of sand running to break things up, ugh!
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

 As I headed up to the little bridge crossing, there was Glen Tachiyama and Greg Lanctot throwing out cheers, taking photos, and giving time gaps. 10 minutes to Chris and another 10 to Dave. The cheers got me going and I think the Ibuprofen finally started to kick in just in time as the climb up to Wolf Ridge began to smack me in the face. I again tried to look up the mountain to see if a ten minute gap meant Chris was still in sight. There were so many hikers out that I wasn't able to get a fix on Chris, but I told myself that the one that was furthest away was him. I hit a section of steps which I attacked as if it was one of the high rise stair climb competitions that I have participated in. A quick glance back at the top of the steps revealed that I was still under assault by Mr orange shirt, although I estimated it to be about a 10 min gap. At the top of Wolf Ridge I could look down to the east and see the Tennessee Valley aid station and what looked to be 5 miles of tail to get to it, good news though, mostly down hill. As I neared the aid station I let out a coyote howl to let Keira and any other SoCal Coyotes know I was coming in. Sure enough there was Keira with arms full of different things to eat and drink. "Down this, take this and drink all of this!"I don't ask questions, just do what I'm told. That is all except for the Ibuprofen that she had for me. I told her I didn't need it. The only item that I knew the contents of was a Guayaki Yeba Matte energy shot. grabbed a package of menthos and grabbed my fresh bottles from Dominic Grossman, who I found out later was asked by Keira to help out when I got in to fill them up. Reason being, my lovely lady not only drove to the Tennessee Valley aid station after she said she couldn't get there in time due to construction back at Muir beach mile 33.5 and just got there a minute before I arrived but she also drove back to Muir beach not knowing T.V. was a double aid station and we would hit it twice, at mile 38 and then again at mile 50.5. When she found out she then drove back to T.V. again getting there with only seconds to spare, all to make sure I had what I needed before my push back to Muir Beach! Wow thank you honey!

Mile 50.5 to 54.6 Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach
Photo: Dominic Grossman ( unicorn)

With Dominic running along side , taking  pictures, and excitingly feeding me course info that I had a bit of flat then a pretty good climb up to and then down and around pirates cove and then back up before I hit the muir beach aid station, and the time gap back from Chris now at 6 minutes, he gave me just the boost I needed to begin my chase. That didn't mean that I was able to increase my pace, I just mentally switched my focus forward and not on what was going on behind and I never looked back again. I crested the hill to see another jewel of the Miwok course, Pirates Cove.
Photo: Myles Smythe

 But again I was unable to fully enjoy the beauty as I began to descend I again rolled my right ankle. And this time it hurt enough to let out loud verbal cursing.  The trail now demanded my full attention as I could not let this happen again. So down into the cove I went and came to a spot where the trail split. I paused just long enough to look for ribbons, and to give a quick glance up the climb. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, there was Chris cresting the hill!  That was the first time that I saw him since mile 13, hours ago!  It looked to me like he was around 4 or 5 minutes up on me. As I approached the spot where I saw Chris there again were Glen T and Greg L taking photos and encouraging me to go get Chris. I was on the small steep downhill that I had climbed a couple hours previous that lead to the aid station and now I could hear the cheers that I thought were spurring Chris on but could have very well have been cheers for runners heading out for their 20 mile out and back.  Either way Chris was out of the aid station and on his way to the finish line without me able to catch a glimpse of him. That was fine with me, I would rather he didn't know I was catching him.
Photo: Chandra Farnham

 Coming in to the aid station was Chandra Farnham telling me how far up Chris was and asking if I needed anything, I asked if they had any potatoes at the station as I reached my Keira who was waiting with the usual fresh supplies of  water, nuun and a quick 300 calorie shot of CarboPro mixed with 6oz of water, and the shot of encouragement that is always the most needed. As I turn to leave Chandra puts a dinner size portion of potatoes in my hand and tells me to go get Chris. My reply was I am still going to buy my time up the climb and attack descending the dipsea steps with 3 miles to go.

Mile 54.6 to 62.2 Muir Beach to FINISH
This section started with the mile or so of flat that we had on our way out to Muir beach. I tried my best to keep a fast pace through this which proved to be a little more difficult then it was I my initial trip as now I was hitting many oncoming runners and a tad bit more fatigued. As I started on the climb I could feel every mile that I now had on my legs and found it hard to keep pushing my pace, but knew if I wanted to catch Chris I needed to dig deep and keep it moving. I now did one thing that up until now I hadn't since the race start, that being stop to pee, that takes time! I was still hitting oncoming runners although far and few between but I didn't want to chance it. After my short break I came upon Gary Gellin who was running toward me and stopped his forward progress to tell me he was on his way out to pace a runner in, and gave me some much needed info about Chris. Looking at his watch he tells me that he passed Chris 2/10ths of a mile back which equates to about 2 min and I can surely catch him.That should have lit a fire under me but I couldn't remember how much more climbing I had before I hit the downhill and the Dipsea stairs and didn't want to get into a sprint war with him this far out. As it was I was pushing pretty hard although I still had a little left for the last couple miles. I crested the climb and began my descent and let it all go, although all I could think about was if I turned my ankle one more time that it might just finish my day and all that I had worked for would be over, so I held back just a little to make sure my foot placement was on solid ground. I hit the bridge crossing and turned left and knew that I was now on the final couple miles of the course as I had run this portion of the course the day before with Keira and Jimmy Dean Freeman. What I didnt remember from the day before course preview was how hard the climb out of the dark forest was, so different on tired legs, but I told myself if I was able to run it yesterday then you can surely run it today, so get moving. As soon as I got to the open area that gave me a glimpse of the inviting ocean on my left and the massive hills that we had climbed at the start of our venture hours ago on my right, my eyes focused on at first the switch backs that lead to a couple of rollers but in the distance a more inviting moving object. I couldn't believe it. It was Chris going over the rollers and looked to be less then a minute up! But I was running out of real estate. I reckon he had about a half mile to go and I had a little less than 3/4 of a mile. I immediately attacked with everything I had left. I hit the blacktop road, crossed hwy 1, and made the left hand turn toward the beach and saw him right before he turned a corner a little over a  hundred meters up. All I could think was I hope we finish where we started because if we do then I got him! The spectators were out, the cheers were loud, but as I rounded the corner the finish line was right there, along with my fellow Rudy Project Ultra Running team member and buddy Chris Price welcoming me in.

Photos: Tanford Tahoe

 9 hours 28 min and 55 seconds over 63 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing left me in third place 25 seconds behind Chris Price at 9:28:30 and 14:49 behind  Dave Mackey at 9:14:06.

WOW what a spectacular course! Great aid stations with awesome volunteers!  Thank you Tia Bodington for rerouting the course so that Miwok 100k still exists, even if it is tougher and longer then then original.
And of course the person that is responsible for making it the best race ever my girl Keira. Thank you INKnBurn for making the most comfortable running clothing with the raddest designs anywhere! Thank you Rudy Project for making the most technically cool eyewear to keep my eyes dust free and comfortably shaded all day. Ellisa Price for bringing the Technu to wash off whatever poison oak oil I encountered on the course. Brooks Pure Grits for giving me the cush ride that kept me connected to the ground and blister free.