Saturday, July 4, 2015

Western States 100-miler 2015

First, I want you to know the history of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run if you are interested.  So here's a link for that.  To sum it up, Western States is known as the oldest trail 100-miler and getting a ticket to toe the starting line is one of the most sought after spots in Ultrarunning.  The elite field is also extremely competitive, bringing the best ultrarunners from around the world.  Second, Western States is a very difficult race to get into in any given year.  Unless you are an elite runner that can gain entry through winning certain races, the main way for the normal runners to gain entry is through a lottery, where every year you do not get selected, your odds improve for the next year as you get 2^(n-1) tickets where n is the number of times in a row you have applied.  So my odds this year of getting selected was 8% I think, because I had 8 tickets in the pool.  Now getting those tickets isn't always easy either.  You have to run a qualifying race (only certain 100-milers, or finishing specific shorter races within a certain time) each year to be eligible for the lottery for the following year's race.  So when I got selected, it was my 4th lottery attempt.  Lastly, by getting into this race, it opens up the possibility to take on a challenge called the "Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (TM)" which is running four of the oldest 100-mile mountain races in the U.S. in a period of about 11 weeks.  With the odds so low of getting into Western States again, I decided this year to go for the Grand Slam.

Like many 100-mile races, one of the main goals is to finish in under 24-hours.  Before heading out to the race, my A-goal was a sub-22 hour finish, B-goal was sub-24, and C goal would be to finish within the 30-hour cutoff.  However, the biggest weight would be on the C goal because a DNF (Did Not Finish) would disqualify me from the Grand Slam.

I flew out to Reno Thursday night and arrived at the Tahoe Inn at 12:30AM.  I got to bed around 1:30 but woke up shortly after 6AM.  I didn't have to check in for the race until 9AM at the earliest so I used that time to finish up packing my drop bags (bags runners can use at certain check-points during the race).  I had a little anxiety over these bags because this race did not have transportation for a finish line bag that you can drop off the morning of the race; you drop off the finish line bag only the day before the race with the other drop bags.  So I was worried about carrying my phone, car key, glasses, money/ID on me all race.  I figured I could shove it in a pocket in my hydration pack and leave it there. My guess for why they don't transport a race morning bag to the finish line is that probably 90% of the runners have pacers or crew to help them out.  I was flying solo this race and most likely will for all 4 races of the Grand Slam.  I leave the Inn and stop at a restaurant (Rosies) for some breakfast and then make my way to the Squaw Valley Olympic Village.  It only takes about 15 minutes to drive there from the Inn.  Great location!  I go through the check-in process where Stan Jensen (keeper of the website welcomes me and checks me into the race and gives me my wrist band that has the words "Grand Slam" written on it in marker so that everyone knows I'm one of the 42 (record) people attempting the Slam.  Then comes the check-in for the medical research project.

Dr. Marty Hoffman has been doing research on ultra-endurance events for a long time and uses Western States as a lab for testing the runners on various interesting topics.  This year, the test is an investigation of popular recovery techniques for Ultramarathon recovery post race.  The test subjects were to run two separate 400-meter timed sprints within the 3 weeks leading up to the race and answer a questionnaire regarding training .  At check-in, we were weighed and then had to answer some questions such as how sore do we feel and how much muscular fatigue we feel.  For those that finish the race, we are weighed again, a small sample of blood is drawn, we answer the same questions about soreness and fatigue, and then the runners are randomly assigned to one of three different types of recovery methods, Compression, Massage, or electric stimulation (I think).  After the 20-minute recovery stimulation, we are asked the questions again.  Finally, we are discouraged from using pain medication, compression garments, massage, electrical stimulation, or heat/ice for 7 days.  We are to document how sore and fatigued we feel each morning and answer a couple other questions and we are to repeat the 400-meter timed sprint on the Wednesday and Friday following the race.  For taking part in this study, the runners get a t-shirt at check-in and for those that can complete it, receive a jacket.  I like to think we help the scientific community as well and that's a plus in my book.

After the medical research part, it's time to collect the race schwag and boy do we get our money's worth.  We received a dri-fit shirt, arm-sleeves with a pocket, a visor, a trucker hat, Injinji socks, a Buff, a coozy, and a great backpack as well as a ton of food stuff to try.  For those finishing the race, you get a medal, water bottle, a custom engraved buckle, and a finishers jacket.  With all of these goodies and the amount of other support (food, drinks, nutrition, ice, and the post-race food) the $393 entry fee doesn't seem too bad at all given how big an event it is that they run.  Here are all the goodies not including the food and water bottle.

After collecting everything, I wandered around the small Western States store and browsed but didn't purchase.  Then I went outside and chatted with some of the people there.  I also eavesdropped on some conversations of the elite athletes and the legends such as Ann Trason who was hanging out at the UltraRunning Magazine tent.  Then I had some time to kill before I dropped off my bags so I went to Starbucks.  I struck up some conversations with some runners, one of which was running the series of races called "The Last Great Race", which has now been changed to O6HC (Original 6 Hundred Challenge) which is the same 4 races I'm doing but you add in the Old Dominion 100-miler (Virginia) the first weekend in June and then Angeles Crest 100 (Los Angeles) the first weekend in August.  I got myself a seat outside and then read the race guide again.  Then I took care of dropping off my drop bags.  I still had about an hour to kill so I went over to the start line and hung out on the grass ahead of the start line and just relaxed in the shade, taking in the nice scenery of the mountains to my left and the race start ahead of me.

Next came the Pre-race briefing at 1:30PM.  It was held in the Olympic Dining hall which hosted all of the athletes in 1960.  Nowadays, it wouldn't be able to hold just the American Olympic athletes.  We watched a short video and then heard some nice speeches ranging from trail conservation to runner conservation from the medics.  There was a moment of silence for a long-time aid station captain that passed away this year and also a long ovation for ultra-runner Dave Mackey who was probably watching the webcast from the hospital after he was severely injured running when a rock gave way and he fell a long way down about a month ago.  There was a course update and then an introduction to the elite female and then male runners.  After that was all done, I was hoping to meet up with the other Grand Slammers but there was some confusion about where to meet and I was just wandering around for 15 minutes before I found a small group of them outside where we were to get advice from one of last year's Grand Slammers and also a former Team in Training Coach for the LA chapter Jimmy Dean Freeman.

It was about 3PM and time to head back to the hotel.  I dropped off everything in the room and then went out for some dinner overlooking Lake Tahoe.  Again, very relaxing and scenic.  Following dinner, I went back to the Inn and packed everything else up so that I was ready to go in the morning.  I had my clothes laid out and the suitcase packed but open, ready for me to pack away the remaining things in the morning (clothing, plugs, toiletries, etc.).  Then I turned on the Women's World Cup and watched the US win.  After that, it was maybe 7:30 and I decided to try and sleep.  Surprisingly, I was able to fall asleep quickly.  I woke up numerous times at night and at one point, heard a loud click.  I thought it was something with the clock in the room but didn't bother investigating and went back to bed.  I woke up again at 2AM (alarm was set for 2:45) and was pretty much awake so I decided to get up.  I went to turn on the light but the light didn't turn on.  I tried a different light and still nothing.  Then I realized that the clock light was out too.  Maybe my room lost power?  I looked out the window and it was pitch black, so the lights outside the hotel were also off although I saw some lights on in the building across the street.  So either the Inn lost power, or the area lost power and just emergency lights were on and this Inn had no emergency lights.  This was not good but I had my work phone and my own phone and they both have a flashlight function so I used those to get ready.  It made the process take a bit longer so I was glad I woke up well before my alarm.  I'm also glad I didn't rely on the hotel clock for the alarm.  After I was all set up and completely packed and ready to go, I left the room, dropped my key through the key return slot since there was no front desk open at that time, then I drove to the parking lot at Squaw Valley for the start.

I was one of the first people to arrive at 3:15AM.  And I really had to go to the bathroom.   So I didn't take my hydration pack and just walked out looking for the bathroom and made my second deposit of the morning.  Oh yeah, I took some immodium after the first one because it wasn't how it should be if you know what I mean and I was a little worried.  My stomach was a little weird that morning too, but I wasn't feeling ill.  So I took care of business, went back to the car, got my stuff and then got on the breakfast line which was just me.  I ate a couple mini muffins and some peanut/almond bars and drank water.  Then I checked in, got my bib and relaxed in the lounge area.  I went to the bathroom again.  More and more people started to come in and before you know it, the place is bustling with runners and their support crew.  I spoke with a number of people and gazed at all of the "celebrities" I recognized.  I got back in the bathroom line at 4:40 to make hopefully my final pit-stop for a long time.  Then I sat in a chair near the door to exit to the starting area 100 feet away.  Some runners and crew (one of them, Shaeen Sattar was an elite runner) were talking about a Black Bear that was spotted at 3AM near the start line.  I told them that as long as you aren't the slowest runner, you have nothing to worry about.  Then there was 5 minutes until the start so we headed out and I lined up right near two other grand slammers.  One of them was Luis Miguel Callao from NY and it was nice to meet him, as he was one of only a few NYers to be part of the race.  We wished each other good luck and then the countdown began and finally, the shotgun to start us off.

The race starts off with a 4.5 mile, 2,550 foot climb to the top of Emigrant Pass at nearly 8,800 feet.  The terrain is smooth dirt for most of it (Fire Road type) as the climb uses the path that vehicles take to service the ski areas higher up on the mountain.  I should mention that even before the race, when I first stepped out of the car that morning, I was in a thin dri-fit t-shirt and shorts and I was very comfortable.  This is not a good sign of things to come for the race if it is in the 70s at 3AM at 6,500 feet.  The course here was lighted and the sun starts rising shortly after 5AM so there was no need for any headlamps or flashlights to start the race.  The lead runners take off and run this entire section.  I wonder if their race times would be even faster if they power-hiked this section instead of running it?  My plan, walk up the hill.  As we head higher, the views just get better and better of the surrounding area.  

At some points, especially near the top of this climb, the pitch gets very steep.

Once we hit the top, it's a nice downhill section on very narrow singletrack.  In a way, it is good that it was so narrow because it prevented me from bothering with passing anyone and I was able to keep my pace easier than I would have gone had there been no one ahead of me or if it was wide enough to easily pass slower runners ahead.

There were some spots though where the runner ahead could tell that a train of people was behind them and they would pull over to the side as soon as they had a chance and let runners pass.  A few times I was asked by the runner ahead if I want to pass but I declined. However, at some point they would always pull to the side to let me pass.  This downhill stretch was quite pleasant.  The flowers were pretty and the mountains to our left were a nice view.  This was the Granite Chief Wilderness Area and it was very peaceful.  Around mile 7 though, there was a large tree that had fallen down and was blocking the course.  It was easy enough to climb over it but somehow, I didn't lift my left leg up nearly enough to step on it and I banged my shin against it.  It hurt and got cut up but I knew it wasn't anything serious.  It was just annoying. 

At mile 9, I was 2:10 into the race and feeling good, sort of.  I wasn't feeling too hungry or that I felt like my stomach wanted to handle much food.  I knew I needed some so when I got to the aid station at mile 10, I grabbed a pack of Clif shot blocks and then as I was going to head out I saw some watermelon and grabbed a few pieces of that.

The next 6 miles went well with some rolling hills near 7,000 feet altitude.  It was 8:42AM when I arrived at the next aid station at mile 16 and I was hot.  At the Red Star Ridge aid station, the volunteers were fantastic.  A kid about 13 years old brought me my drop bag and filled my hydration pack with ice and water.  Meanwhile, I changed into a tank top and had a volunteer reapply sunblock everywhere.  Finally, another aid station volunteer filled my hat with ice and gave me her bandana and filled that with ice and wrapped that around my neck.  The next section was 7.8 miles and was mostly small rolling hills before heading downhill into the canyons.  The terrain got just a tiny bit technical at some points but still nothing like the East Coast.

Around mile 19, I felt some weird thing near mile heel/ankle in my shoe.  I was moving well and was tempted to just let it be but thought better of it and pulled to the side and took off my shoe and got whatever was in my shoe out.  However, when I put my shoe back on, it felt like something was crinkled in my sock and it didn't feel good.  So 2-3 more times I took my shoe off and put it back on and finally I said, forget it and laced up and started moving.  As soon as I took a few steps, the weird crinkle feeling was gone.  I'm glad I took the one minute of time to empty my shoe because leaving something small like that in your shoe for a race this long will become a huge problem.  By taking the minute to fix the problem, I saved myself an hour or more in the long run.

For so much of this race, one of the things that was so weird to me was the size of the pine cones on the trees here, or at least, the ones on the ground.  David Snipes had told me to look for them but how could you miss them?!  They were huge!  Imagine one of those falling on your head during the race?  I took a video of two kinds of these Dinosaur type pinecones.  One was very long, the other very fat.

I reached the next aid station which was mile 23.8, Duncan Canyon at 10:20AM, so 5:20 into the race.  I was hot.  As usual, I got wiped down with cold water and sponges, filled my hat and bandana around my next with ice.  I ate more cantaloupe and watermelon and had some shot blocks before reaching the aid station.

The next section from Duncan Canyon to Robinson Flat was about 6 miles and it sucked.  Due to a fire in 2008 (or some other time when this section was hit), there is almost no cover from the sun on this stretch.  At this time, the sun was beating down and it was so dry and hot and the surface was so dry and dusty as well.  All of this combined just sapped my strength.  about 2.5 miles into the run, we came upon an oasis.  At least that's what I call it.  It was a very small creek of cold water and it was incredible.  We sat in it and some even laid down in it to get completely cooled off.  I didn't want to leave it.  It was so refreshing and recharging and unbeknownst to me, it probably saved my race because the next 4 miles were tortuous.

 It went mostly uphill (literally) and there was hardly and shade so my energy and race were going downhill (figuratively).  Here's a video of the area and you can see the trees are no longer trees.

I was sucking down water and pouring water on my head, neck, shoulders, arms, legs.  I ran out of that water a mile before the aid station.  This part really sucked the life out of me.  I wasn't sweating or if I was, it was immediately evaporating.  I was taking the Enduralytes hoping that would help and it probably did.  When I got to the aid station, I had to take my time.  There wasn't much that was appetizing to me.  I ate some more cantaloupe and watermelon.  I tried a couple crackers.  I also took 2 small cups of gingerale to help ease my stomach and because I needed calories.  I spent nearly 20 minutes in that aid station.  Before leaving, I had volunteers completely cover me in ice cold water and hat a cap-full of ice and my bandana filled with ice too.

When I left this aid station, I was shivering but that didn't last too long.  This section was better though.  After an uphill section out of the aid station, the course goes downhill until the next one.  This section had a little breeze and some cover so it was much better.  It took about an hour and I was at the next aid station (Miller's Defeat) and I got some nice help from some young kids who took charge.

At this aid station, I tried something new which was a Clif product that was like baby food in a pouch.  I unfortunately chose a not so nice flavor of Apple, Ginger, Beet and the beet flavor was overpowering.  I took a small taste and knew it wasn't for me.  So I went for some more Gingerale, watermelon and cantaloup. The next 3.6 mile section was downhill and my pace picked up nicely.  It felt the same for a little bit of the next section.  At mile 41 I was hot and my mouth was dry.  I continued to take Endurolytes and watered myself down to stay cool.  However, looking at my time, I realized that it might be difficult for me to break 24 hours.  While I have heard that the second half of the race is much easier than the first, I was only at mile 41 and wouldn't get to the next aid station (mile 43.5 - Last Chance) until 3:15AM.  That would mean I had 6.5 miles to go before the half-way point and that still meant I had Devil's Thumb, a 1.8 mile climb that gains 1,500 feet with around 37 switchbacks.  I guess that I would be at the top of Devil's thumb close to 5PM which would mean I would have 12 hours to run 50-miles.  That's very doable, but ho easy would it be to do it for the last 50 miles of this race?  It wasn't out of the question, but it didn't make sense to think much about it and just continue to run aid station to aid station and worry about finishing times when I'm much closer to finishing.

After Last Chance, it's about 2.5 miles of switchbacks downhill where we descend 2,000 feet. We then cross a bridge over a very large creek and some people would descend lower to enter the creek and cool off, but then had to climb back up.  Snipes had told me to ignore that creek because there would be a small place to cool off after the bridge.  He was right!  There was a small area and I cooled off there for 5 minutes before heading up Devil's thumb.  It went from heaven to hell.

To be honest, most of the climb up Devil's Thumb went well.  I was moving up nicely and easily and thinking it was not going to be a big deal.  Especially, comparing it to the climbs at UTMB last year.  However, about 10 minutes before the top, I started to feel sick.  I didn't know if I had to throw up or head to the bathroom.  There was no place here to pull over to the side.  So I slowly staggered to the top.  When I got to the top, I asked for a chair as I needed to lower my heart rate and not curl up on the ground.  One of the volunteers at the medic area, Gary I believe, gave me a seat and started talking to me about how I felt.  I probably only peed once about 4 hours earlier and it wasn't much.  I had Gary check my pulse to see if my watch was still accurate and it had gone down to about 110 bpm.  Then I told him I'd like to try the bathroom.  He led me to wear the port-o-potty's were and there wasn't a line.  I tried to poop but couldn't.  However, I was able to pee and while it was dark in color and not a lot, it wasn't blood so that's a good sign!  After that, I sat down in a chair and Gary kept talking to me.  We talked about NYC and some other things while volunteers brought me some chicken broth with noodles and watermelon.  It took a while, but I finally decided it was time to get up and go.  I grabbed a citrus popsicle they had at the aid station (woohoo!) and had it in a cup so it wouldn't melt all over me.  Before I truly left, I went to the bathroom one more time and was able to poop (another Woohoo!).  I spent a lot of time in that aid station, maybe close to 25 minutes.  I walked for about 5 minutes out of the aid station still not feeling good.  I was cold from sitting for about 20 minutes.  After walking for a bit and eating the popsicle I felt good enough to start trotting.  What seemed like a mile later, were two people spectating.  One of them had a cello and started playing on it as I approached.  It was very awesome.  They also had a garbage bag there and I was able to get rid of the cup that had the popsicle in it.

I was probably at mile 49 and it was close to 5:20.  Knowing I had a little over 50 miles to run and had to do that in about 11:40 and knowing how I was feeling, I basically threw out the 24-hour goal.  I knew it was still possible, but highly unlikely.  My quads were beginning to feel a little pain so how likely was I going to be able to run fast for the next 50-miles?  I also had a long descent and then another long but not as steep climb coming.  So now I was just debating whether to take it easy or try to still finish as fast as possible so that I could be done as soon as possible.

The next 15 miles are something of a blur.  I would run (slowly) when I could but there were still some big uphill sections which I had to walk.  Even slightly runnable uphills I would walk.  This day was turning into a sufferfest and it was far from over.  I got to Michigan Bluff mile 56, and saw someone I knew, Emily Clay who was crewing for a runner.  I just whined about how tough a day it was.  At the same time, I was also finding it humorous that I might not get to the next aid station before sunset.  The prior two days when I was trying to figure out my drop bags, one of the questions was where I should put my headlamps.  Luckily, I have two headlamps.  If I had one, I would have put it at Foresthill.  I had two, so I put one at Foresthill (mile 62) and the other at Rucky Chucky (mile 78).  I was thinking that I would most likely get to Foresthill with plenty of daylight and if I was having a great day, I would possibly get to Rucky Chucky just before sunset.  Here I was now wondering if I would get to mile 62 in time and without a headlamp in case it got dark.  I was running most of this section with another runner, Tamara Day.  She had gone to the three day training camp of this race a month or two earlier and knew this part of the course.  Although she didn't tell me how long of a straightaway was on the road before the aid station.  I arrived at the aid station, refilled on water and wiped myself off with cold water again.  I saw Emily again before I left and told her with confidence that sub-24 was gone and she said if I averaged 12-minute miles I could still do it.  I laughed at that, given how I was moving around 15 minute miles at this point.

The next sections were rough.  My headlamp was turned on about 5 minutes after I left the aid station.  At 10PM I was feeling pretty tired.  That seemed too early for the sleep monster to rear its head.  I managed to shake it off but was still moving slowly.  The course still had plenty of ups and downs and so did I, though more downs.  I was seeing weird things in the shadows and random noises I would hear would always get me to turn my head.  What was that?!  It never turned out to be anything but those shadows from my headlamp really played tricks on me.  I knew I was getting closer to one of the aid stations when I saw some freaky things about a tenth of a mile before the aid station.  See the video for those surprises.

Around mile 70-75 was when I was really feeling tired.  The sleep monster got control of me and turned me into my friend Zombie Mark.  I would close my eyes for 10 seconds and just walk.  I'm sure I was swaying on the course and looked like one of the walkers/biters from The Walking Dead.  I felt like them too.  Eventually I woke up a little as I knew I was getting closer.  It was about 30 minutes before I reached the Rucky Chucky aid station and then river crossing when I saw something on the ground and had to turn around to make sure I wasn't seeing things.

It was indeed a Scorpion and I thought about putting my finger right next to it to show how small it was.  Then I thought how bad an idea that would be.  Especially since the smaller scorpions are supposed to be the most poisonous.  It was pretty cool to see it.  I got to the Rucky Chucky aid station and took some Coke and a little food and refilled my hydration pack and water bottle with ice and water.  Then I had to head down to the river crossing and had to don a life preserver and a glowstick necklace.  There were volunteers in the river standing next to a rope that crosses the river.  I'm to hold onto the rope as I cross the river which at this time wen as high on me as about my belly button.  The volunteers had flashlights/headlamps on them and told me to watch out for the big rocks right in the river, which by the way is just below a section of class 6 rapids.  So I'm holding onto the rope and I can feel the current pulling me a little.  I navigate around these big rocks.  I'm so happy to be in this cold river.  In years where there is a lot of rain or snowmelt and the river is very high, they have a boat take runners across.  Finally, I get to the other side.  I walk up a short hill to get to the aid station on the other side which just has drop bags.  The volunteers there help the runners with their bags.  I had a change of socks and shoes in my bag and I'm lucky I did because my current pair of shoes actually started to break a few miles back.  A piece of the bottom of my shoe had partially ripped off and was hanging off.  It probably happened because I was shuffling so much due to my tiredness.  So I changed shoes and socks.  The volunteers had towels and I was able to dry my feet but they were a little painful because the bottoms of my feet were somehow waterlogged and creased and there was a lot of dirt in those creases and it hurt.  I used the wet towel to get the dirt out and then dried my feet off and then put socks on and then the shoes.  Also in my bag was my second and better headlamps so I swapped that in. I also had an iPod shuffle and a little bottle of 5-hour energy.  Then I was ready to go.  As I got to the end of the aid station and other volunteers were there to check me out of the aid station, they asked if I had a pacer.  I told them I did not and they asked if I wanted one as someone was looking to pace runners.  I thought about it and then thought I was doing this race solo and was going to do at least two more of these races by myself so I might as well stay that way.  It's my own challenge.  Plus, I was feeling ok at this point and knew I would finish (someday. . .) and maybe someone else would need a pacer more than me.  So I declined and continued on.

Darkness remained the theme.  Some aid stations had some things that helped let us know we were close.  Similar to that alien themed one earlier.  Another one had a whole bunch of lights leading up to it.  Most had loud music playing so you could tell when you were close.  One thing that was starting to help a lot was the cooler temperatures (relatively speaking, since it was still quite warm) and also at one of the aid stations I found a new food.  Similar to that beet, ginger, apple thing was a new flavor, Banana, Mango, Coconut.  It was good!!  So I took some to go as well.

I got to Brown's Bar (mile 90 just after 5AM).  They said they had pancakes at this aid station so I asked for some but after a few minutes, it looked like they were still in the process of making them but they had some bacon and it was delicious!!  I saw Elite Ultrarunner Hal Koerner there as he was helping out and asked if he wanted to pace me for the last 10.  He said he wish he could.  I think he is still recovering from a knee injury earlier this year or late last year.  I grabbed some more of the Banana, Mango, Coconut mix and watermelon to go.  The sun was now coming up and a new day was starting.  It was after 5AM and I had 10 miles to go.

 I was fairly certain I would be done in under three hours but then the course had different ideas.  I didn't realize how many more uphills there were.  At first I was walking most of it.  Then I decided at one point to try and run.  It wasn't happening so I still walked the hills.  I started to run on the downhill into the next aid station, Highway 49 - mile 93.  They had Bacon at this aid station and again it was amazing!!!!!  They also had a smoothy and I had a cup of that.  I took more of the Banana, Mango, Coconut stuff and left feeling great.  I started walking the hill but then decided to try and run.  Amazingly, I was able to run, albeit slowly up the hills.  At one point, actually the second time that morning, I saw a deer pop out close to me.  It was too quick and I couldn't get a video of it.
Then we headed into this peaceful valley and I was wondering what animals might be there.  Next thing you know there is a whole flock of turkeys across the field.

There were some pretty cool views of things in this area.  One was of a bridge way up in the distance and I hoped this was not the bridge we had to cross.  Thankfully it wasn't.

When I did run down to the No Hands Bridge aid station near mile 97, I was feeling very good.  I filled up my water and didn't need anything to eat as I had some of the Banana, Mango, Coconut in my pocket.  The aid station volunteer told me to play a round of Darts before I left.  I didn't know what she meant but she then said just play one round, it is free and you can win a prize.  So I went up there and played a round.  The high score at the time (three throws) was 28.  So I gave it a shot.  I hit 19, 6, and then I missed the board!  Oops.  Well, I didn't even know if I could throw at all at this point.  I was in no hurry to beat 24 hours so I asked if I could try again.  I hit a 3x 2, an 8, and my last throw was a 25 point bullseye!  So my total of 39 was the new high score.  A few days later I found out that someone later on had thrown a 44 to take the high score.  Maybe I should have stuck around and played again.  I'm sure I could have hit a 3x 20.  I was feeling pretty good these last miles and running most uphills.  That was until we got to some major uphills the last 5 miles.  Are you serious?!
So I walked those.  Finally, I got to the last 1.5 miles on asphalt.  They had these awesome painted feet to mark the course here.

People were walking  on the street or outside their homes saying congratulations.  I wonder where the hell the school is for the finish line and finally I approach it.  I was so happy.

I finished the race in 26:52:52.  At least 3 hours slower than I was hoping for going into the race.  However, as I stated earlier, sub-24 was the B goal, but if that couldn't happen, make sure the C goal of finishing happens.  I can't complete the Grand Slam without finishing this race and there were plenty of times where I questioned if I would be able to finish if not this race, then certainly 3 more hundred mile races in the next 11 weeks.  Here's a screenshot of my aid station splits.  I moved up nicely in overall place throughout the race, as bad as I did feel.  Only one person passed me the last 10 miles and that was on the no-hands bridge as I was playing darts.  This guy was moving like a maniac and his pacer couldn't keep up.  I asked what drugs he was on and he said he had a lot of bacon the last aid station.  Makes sense!

After I finished, I was given a water bottle and then asked if I was taking part in the medical research.  I was so they brought me into the medical tent where I was weighted (same weight as from the Friday weigh-in).  They asked me some questions and then took about a tablespoon of blood.  Then they directed me to my random post-race recovery which happened to be compression.  Here's a look at the compression thing I was in.

After the compression I was asked the same questions about soreness and muscular fatigue.  Unsurprisingly, I was way more sore and tired after the compression than before, for the sole reason that I had been sitting, lying down for 30 minutes or so instead of just finishing my race, where I was still moving.  After the race, I hobbled my way (every finisher looked like they were from the walking dead) to get my finish line bag and then made my way to the showers.  It felt so great to shower.  Then I hobbled my way back to the track and plopped myself down.  Then I got up to get a lot of food, eggs, bacon, pancakes, sausage, home fries.  I watched more people finish the race for the next few couple of hours until the last runners which was absolutely amazing.  The final finisher was the oldest woman to finish the race, Gunhild Swanson at 70 years old finished the race in 29:59:54.  Just 6 seconds before the cutoff.  I was there filming it with my phone and it was awesome.

After she finished, it was just a little longer before the awards ceremony.  The ceremony was nice and I went up and received my buckle.

After the awards, I got a ride back to Squaw Valley from someone that volunteered at one of the aid stations and the race director of the Headlands 50K race on Mt. Shasta, Gerad Dean.  We chatted the entire way back to Squaw Valley and it was a quick ride back.  I went to Starbucks and hung out there for an hour.  With not much to do but still a lot of time before my 11:59PM flight, I decided to head back to the airport where I could hopefully nap or write this recap.  I was sleepy on the drive back so I pulled over onto a scenic view area and napped for 30 minutes.  When I got to the airport to check in, there was no agent at the counter and the kiosks wouldn't let me check in.  So I went to the airport bar/restaurant and got myself a very early dinner.  Then I went to the slot machines (it is Reno) and put in $20 and on my second roll, I won over $100!  Woohoo!  I decided to use those winnings to upgrade my seat to more leg room!

The flight home was not fun.  I was so uncomfortable in the seat, even with the extra leg room.  My legs were so tight and I couldn't sleep.  I maybe got a total of an hour sleep on the 5 hour flight.

Post race in the week that followed I have been very sore.   One of the reasons it has taken longer to recover is because part of my responsibility for the medical research is that I can't use ("try not to use") any pain medications, compression garments, massage, electrical stimulation, or heat/ice during the 7 days after the race.  Icing and rolling have helped me to feel better and I'm convinced of that now since I haven't been able to roll or ice in the last week.  I also had to run the test 400-meter sprint on Wednesday and on Friday.  My times were 89 seconds and 86 seconds.  Still a little slower than the 84 seconds the week before the race.

Of the 42 people that entered the Grand Slam, 17 people did not complete Western States.  Overall, the finishing rate was 68%, much lower than the average finishing rate for this race, mostly a result of the very above average temperatures.

I have the Vermont 100 miler coming up in two weeks (three weeks after Western States).  I am not looking forward to it right now.  Maybe I'll be recovered enough to have a good run there. I'm going to be dreading that day though if it is hot and humid.  So one 100-mile mountain race down, 3 to go.


  1. Did they ever get ahold of you with the findings from their research? I looked through the published research on Western States' site but didn't see anything about recovery.

  2. So far they only have the research from 2013 and 2014 on the website. Haven't heard anything about results from the research I took part in yet. If I get in next year (or the next, or the next. . .), I'll have to ask! Thanks for reading!