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|
|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.
Photo: Miriam Simon Carter
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.
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.
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 good.......like I was one of the only ones running up the road that everyone else was hiking....some not so good....like 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|
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.
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.
Special mention to fellow teammates Jeff Browning for pulling out a podium with 3rd place and Paul Terranova for 17th overall.
Patagonia Clothing- Strider Pro shorts, Air flow singlet, duckbill cap
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)
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)
Succeed S caps
Gu Energy Gels (rootbeer, salted caramel, vanilla bean) no more then 10
Rungoo by Foot Kinetics (reapplied 3 times)