I had such a nice time at Western States this year. It was my first year there in a long time where I had no formal responsbilities except to my runner, Dave Bursler. I enjoyed the race immensely, and it was a nice escape from some of the other stressors in my life.
I arrived on Thursday afternoon in Sacramento and drove straight to the Auburn Running Company, one of the best running stores around. Of course, it's the people that make the store and this store is run by awesome people. The main man is Dan Moores and he was kind enough to put some shoes for the race aside for me. Also, he was running the race, hoping for a silver buckle. (...and ended up running a fantastic 22:34:25! Way to go, Dan!)
I got to the medical meeting a bit late, and then got called away several times, which was quite frustrating. But negative things have positive swings, and the kind and caring Stan Jensen took my hand, talked to me, and eased my mind. He also hooked me up with my dear friend Shannon Farar-Griefer with whom I was going to be interviewing for her movie, and this was followed by girls' night out (together with Deb Clem and Tamara, both of whom were on Shannon's Badwater crew last year).
Little sleep was had that night for me despite making myself stay in bed until 9am on Friday. Still, I was psyched and energized. I met up with Dave and Rick Palmer, did some shopping at the WS Store, socialized, and sat for the pre-race meeting.
Then, after talking with Glenn Tachiyama and many many others, we headed to Tahoe for dinner. Dave, Rick and I ended up with burgers and veggie wraps. Sufficient. Fun. Relaxing.
A couple of beers helped the guys relax into a sleep, but in no time it was morning and time to make our way to the lodge for check in. I took a few pictures.
In a matter of tense-filled minutes, the nearly 400 runners were on their way up the first 4-mile climb. It's funny being a crew person or pacer because after all the hype and the starting gun is fired, the runners set off on their journey through 100 miles of gnarly trails ahead....and we pacers just go back to the hotel and sleep!! We've got plenty of time, unless of course we're are crewing too and need to meet our runners early. But for me, I was a pacer, and except for being at Michigan Bluff to greet and crew Dave their, my only goal was to pace from Foresthill.
Bummer I couldn't sleep back at the hotel, so after 5 minutes of trying, I decided to pack up and head to the Bluff. I arrived early, way early. I was glad. I had time to look at the 24-hour splits and time to chat with other early company.
When Hal Koerner came through first and so fresh, all us MB groupies were thrilled. We also waged on whether he would hang tough or burn out further down the trail. Given how good he looked, most of us thought he was likely on his way to a win. (which of course, he DID!)
I looked for Dave early, around that 24 hour pace, but he was still at Devil's Thumb according to the webcast. He was expected in at 7:30 pm, but cruised in at least 30 minutes sooner. And he looked good. No worse for the canyon wear.
After a quick sock change, Dave scurried out of there and I packed my stuff, changed into my pacing clothes and went to Foresthill. I ran down to Bath Road to meet Dave, but almost there, I realized that I did not put my racing bib number on! So, I ran back up and then back down. Good timing, as that was just when Dave and Tony Covarrubias were walking up the hill. They both looked good.
We refueled at Foresthill and took off down the trail. The trail is so easy to run that I think I lead too fast. We were running well but then Dave started dragging. Oops, not what he needed! We slowed it down to the aid station and tried to regroup there. I knew he was fine but urged some calories, any kind, as he had trouble keeping in the calories. Kinda hard to keep moving when you're outa gas...
We got out of the aid station and picked up a little more pace, faster and slower on to the Finish. The River is always a delight. I, myself, have traversed it 3 times and once by boat during my four Western States finishes. This time, I must say the water felt COLD! Colder than usual. In any case, the coldness is the ultimate refreshener and I reveled in its muscle soothing properties.
On the far side, Dave changed socks and shoes and attended to some blisters himself while I busied with battery changes and getting him some calories. He was quick and I was eager to get moving because, while the River was waist deep for most, it was chest deep for me! I hadn't planned on changing into dry clothes but I did have some extra Smartwool socks with me if I needed them.
We started the climb up to Green Gate and I warmed up a bit. I had some toe warmers with me that I stuck to my stomach and put in my jog bra to heat my core. I felt much better as the cool breeze gently dried my clothes and shoes over the next couple of hours.
Dave was much stronger now, and despite the obligatory hill walking, he kept a nice steady pace. He even ran some of the shorter or shallower hills as I encouraged him on. We kept the conversation light and laughed a lot. It was a nice distraction for the miles between aid stations that seem much longer than their actual distances. He blew through Browns Bar after chugging an Odoules, and I swear that's what did him good for another 10 miles! I kept thinking he needed calories and was amazed that he could move forward on such little fuel. I was, in fact, eating more than he was! Mmm! Western States Pay Day bars, soups, PB&J, potatoes. The extra calories for me kept me awake and energized and warm.
It's interesting to me to see how the psyche works in 100-mile races. As I encouraged Dave on, I reminded him that I too have been where he was. There's always a devil or two to wrestle in your head and I knew he was battling a bit. I didn't want to push him too hard lest he give 100% of himself BEFORE reaching the finish line, but I also know that he is a much better runner than me and that he was capable of dig, dig, digging deep....even without the physical calories to move him forward. I was just amazed at how he would run for long stretches without breaks and how he (or anybody at this point!) could keep moving forward after covering 90 miles of arduous trail by the power of one's own feet. It's just incomprehensible when you really think about it. Still, he moved forward to the Finish, one section of the course at a time.
No Hands Bridge is always a glorious experience. There's nothing like your feet hitting that bridge whether in the dusk, darkness, dawn or daylight. When we hit the bridge, we could sense the excitement in Auburn and we picked up the pace to Robie Point. After the last trail hill, our feet the hit the pavement at Robie Point aid station, signifying another landmark on the way to the finish just a little over a mile away.
We walked the paved hill and I tried to encourage Dave to run 1/2 way up the next gentler one (though I KNOW it doesn't feel at all "gentle" when you have 99 miles on your feet!). To our delight, Rick was there on the road and joined us to the Finish. Unfortunately, he had stomach issues early in the race and had to drop at Devil's Thumb. Seeing Rick sparked some more energy into Dave and he ran the rest of the way to the gate at the track, around the track, and under the Finish line in 27 hours!
A quick med check and celebration followed, then showers and socializing. We had the task of figuring out how to get my car and supplies (including clean, poison-oak free clothes) back from Foresthill and also Rick and Dave's car back from Squaw. We weren't in a hurry though and we basked in the post-race satisfaction that filled the center of the track. We listened to success stories and galliant efforts that would have to be repeated another year. We saw some runners walking around like they hadn't even run a 5k! and other were too sick to move. Some runners were severely dehydrated; others had gained a lot of weight. I was not the Medical Advisor this year but still many runners or their families sought some advice, which I am always happy to give.
Shannon Farar-Griefer found us and asked us to do another post-race interview for her movie. I hadn't showered and I had dirt in my teeth (literally!), but we hobbled to a quiet part of the school and shared our experience on the trail with the camera and the other runners waiting their turn to take their turn.
We headed back for the awards and I grew weary. I needed food and I could already feel the allergens in my body causing me to writhe in itchy discomfort. The sun was hot and shade was already spoken for. Once the awards were over, we picked up the car and Dave and Rick left in theirs to head back to Reno and I checked into my hotel in Auburn and enjoyed what I think is one of the most rewarding parts of ultrarunning - the post race shower! I scrubbed my legs with Tecnu over and over again and made sure my trail clothers stayed separate from the rest. I slept well and flew home in the morning. Satisfied.
It was a splendid time. I loved being at Squaw, on the trail and at the school in Auburn. Western States is a special event for me. The people there are my family and I love and cherish them. Western States is a place where dreams come true, bonds are formed, and life-changing memories are made. I was honored to be selected as Dave's pacer and I am proud of his race. I am also so grateful to my friends who supported me there. Their hugs will carry me through whatever I need to get through. And that is the most significant thing I know - love and friendship and bonding and caring and support permeate these races. As usual, I felt it there last weekend and I look forward to accepting and giving more of the same down the trail/road.
Here is a link to Dave's race report.
Here is a link to the official race results.
Here is a link to a few more of my pictures.
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