Western States is 8 days away and nothing I can do now is going to make my race better. That’s how I am looking at it after, probably, the worst spring training I have ever gone through. Injuries have taken their toll at the worst possible time. It’s taken me 5 years to finally get selected at this race and it is the year the injuries have curbed my training more than ever. I figured after 5 years I was ready to tackle this race and started training shortly after being selected in the lottery. I have been dealing with Piriformis Syndrome in my right butt cheek for many years, but this year it seems to have gotten worse than ever. Add that to the knee problem I was dealing with from late last year. The left knee osteoarthritis had actually improved to the point where I wasn’t even thinking about it, but every now and then it would pop up to remind me, or worse the right knee would act up. But the knee problems were becoming less of an issue. After TJ100k in March the right calf was the main concern. It is fine now and was replaced by an Achilles pain on the left side. It is mostly healed now, but the PS just won’t go away and is also affecting my lower back on the right side too. This only seems to be a problem with sitting for long periods, like at work!!!
I signed up for the WS100 training runs with the idea of just experiencing the course and getting in some extra heat training. As the runs got closer it was clear that they would be much more than that. I would look at them as a test to see if my body and injuries could manage the most running I would do in a week for almost a year.
The weekend would entail 3 days of running over the WS course, covering a total of 72 miles, 32 miles the first day, followed by 18 and 22 mile days.
We flew to Florida the week before for some vacation time with friends and I managed to get in 4 decent runs in the Florida heat and humidity, although the PS was a pain.
I flew to California on the Thursday before the training runs, but didn’t get to my hotel room in Cupertino until 4:30 am due to flight delays in Dallas. I picked up Gary and Kate at SFO the next morning before going to Zombie Runner to achieve a long term desire to visit the store.
I subsequently spent too much money and we headed off for Auburn.
The traffic out of San Fransisco was the worst I have ever encountered. Similar to a long weekend in Ontario (Memorial Day) everyone was heading out of town and we were in the middle of it. What would normally take about 2.5 hours took 5.5 hours. We rolled in to Auburn at about 7 pm, just in time to catch the end of the Hoka One One film show at the Auburn Running Company. Got to see a few elites there including last year’s race winner Magda Boulet. Chatted with Gordie for a bit and he gave me some encouraging words.
We went back to Elke’s house and quickly settled in for the night as we had to get up early to get ready for the bus ride to Robinson Flat. The busses left for the Start from Foresthill, where we would finish later in the day. Overall they figured there was about 200 people running on the first day. It was about a 45 minute bus ride to Robinson Flat and I chatted with a guy in front of me from Oregon who had only run 1 100 miler before and it was WS a few years ago. A lot of the runners there were not in the race, but just there to experience what a lot of people never get to. We hopped off the bus and headed out on the trails, snowy trails. There was no official start, it was go when you want and we followed the crowd up the hill.
The first part of the trail from Robinson was snow covered, for the most part, and deep in spots, but we were able to run on top. The trail quickly goes up and climbs to Mount Baldy, before heading down for long stretches. The views at the top were stunning.
Once we started heading downhill, it was on easy single track on the side of the mountain, but very exposed. This is an area where things will start to get warm on race day. For the most part, the first number of miles were good as we ran the half marathon to the first canyon. The decent into the first canyon was quite steep, but manageable. I took it easy and saw no one. It was about 1.6 miles to the bottom and as I crossed the first bridge I came across Gary waiting for me.
There were a few people in the river, but I thought it was too far down to go there now. Maybe on race day if it’s too hot. Anyway I was interested in getting the next climb out of the way, Devils Thumb. We started up the 36 switch backs with a purposeful hike and passed many people on the way up. We were about ¾’s of the way up when we heard someone behind us! WTF. Yes two runners (RUNNERS) passing us up Devils Thumb. Turns out it was too of the elites, Jesse Haynes and Jeff Browning. Never saw them again. We continued passing folks and stopped a few times for photos ops.
Eventually 2 miles into it we got to the top of Devils Thumb and there was the thumb! We waited there for about 15 minutes for Kate and then continued on to the aid station a mile or so down the road. Shortly afterwards we headed down the trail to the next downhill. This one was longer over 2 miles down, but not as steep. By the time I got to the bottom I was toast. At the bottom was another river and lots of runners soaking, so I joined them.
The next climb was up to Michigan Bluff. Some consider this tougher than Devils Thumb and while not as steep, it is definitely longer and I would say it may be tougher. At Michigan Bluff I took the time to relax and chat with Craig Thornley for a bit. I had a bite to eat at the aid station and downed more than 2 cokes as I waited for Gary and Kate.
From Michigan Bluff on is familiar territory, at least in memory from 3 years ago, as it was here that I started pacing Gary in 2013. My memory can’t be that good though as I don’t remember a lot of it, particularly the length of the climbs. At the top before going into the last canyon we came across lots of bear tracks.
The last canyon (Volcano Canyon) was not nearly as tough as the others, but still lots of downhill running and a steep climb up the other side, before hitting the pavement on Bath Rd to climb up to Foresthill. Once I hit the flat trail into Foresthill I ran for a bit, but my hip/glute was rather sore and backed off to a walk before running in the last little bit.
A decided that this day was a big success, as for the most part, I came through fairly unscathed. Gary came in shortly after me and Kate a little bit after that.
Day 2 saw us start at Foresthill and would run 18 miles to just past the Rucky Chucky River crossing, although we wouldn’t cross the river.
We started down the road to Cal St. and the gradual downhill. I was feeling good after yesterday’s long run and followed Gary down the single track. For the most part, until the first aid station after about 7 miles, I was running well, although Gary had left me behind a while ago. But once I got to that aid station I started to suffer a bit. Not sure what, but I was tired I guess. At that first aid station met up with Ann Trason and Tim Tweitmeyer and his dog. Two WS legends.
I ran down the next set of switch backs, but was soon reduced to walking more. The heat was getting to me and what was worse was the fact that the river was so close, but yet so far. I was still passing lots of people on the hills though. What seemed like a long time passed before we finally made it to the river, where there was an aid station and… the river to soak in. almost everyone was taking advantage of that. I drank a lot of pop, probably too much, but I was craving it. We soaked in the river until Kate got there and it gave us an opportunity to chat with some of the fast guys who just hanging around socializing. I chatted with Sage Canaday about his choice of shoes (Hoka Claytons).
The last 2 miles of this run were up a steep dirt road up to the finish. It was hot with not much shade, but I still passed lots of people on the climb.
At the end I got a well needed Chiropractic adjustment from Gordie. He told me a few stories while he adjusted me. As he usually does.
Day 3 would see us bussed from Placer High in Auburn (WS100 finish) to as close to Green Gate as possible it was then a 22 mile run to the finish. Not on the track but almost.
We started down a dirt road to near the Green Gate aid station and then followed single track trails and bypassed Auburn Lake Trails AS site on to Browns bar. Most of this was flat to rolling single track trails. A few decent hills for good measure, but nothing compared to the past couple of days. I remembered most of this from pacing Gary in 2013 and 14. Some of it I don’t remember though. I ran well here, but in the back of my mind was the thought that the first aid wasn’t until 10 miles in. After about 8 miles I was reduced to walking some and felt the impact of the heat again. Along these trails I came across Mike, a Canadian who lives in Truckee (near by) who I met in 2014. He organizes the Canadian party prior to race and this year he’s having it on the Wednesday, which is before we get there. So it was good to run into him and chat briefly.
I got to the aid finally and saw that Chloe was working it and chatted with her for a bit. Refueled and off I went. I ran for while and took advantage of the hills for walks, but I knew there was a couple of bigger hills coming on either side of Hwy 49. I thought I remembered the first one, but wow it was a lot longer than I remember. I struggled to the top and wasn’t feeling the best by the time I got to Hwy 49. After is another hill and I didn’t remember it being as long as it was. Struggled again. From here on in I mostly walked it. Between the heat and glute aches I was resigned to just walking. I felt bad about walking here as it is such a runnable section, at least until the climb up to Robie Point.
Eventually I got to No Hands Bridge, it was hot and made worse watching all the people in the river below enjoy the nice cool water. The aid station was on the opposite side of the bridge and Ann Trason was there and she recognized me from the posted picture on FB with her. We chatted briefly and then I headed up the long climb to Robie. There were lots of people on the trail enjoying the nice day. About half was there is a bridge over a stream and another runner had “taken refuge” there to cool off in the stream. I did likewise and soaked myself shoes and all. I then continued up and the trail got steeper. It wasn’t as long as I remember it, but after turning onto the pavement the hill just continued into town. I caught up to 2 ladies who I chatted with for a few, took a few pictures at the 99 mile sign
and then with 1/2 mile to go there was a group of people with a pop up tent which looked like they were giving away drinks and I said jokingly cold beer. As it turned out they were giving away beer, so I took one for the last stretch. I tried running with it, but it just foamed over.
So I just walked in the last bit. Kate came in next after having what she said was a good day. Today it was Gary’s turn to struggle.
Over all, the weekend was a success. I proved that I could get through these sections of the course, albeit over 3 days. So I was happy.
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