Aug 7, 2014

Western States 100

Squaw Valley. Start of WS 100 Photo: KMF
The training leading up to this race wasn't great.  I got hurt after Leona Divide 50 that kept me on the sidelines for a month, finally being able to run by the end of May, just in time for WS Training Camp.  The rest of the buildup was "meh" at best but I had a good base since February so I thought I would be fine to achieve my "A" goal, which was sub-24.  After a couple of nights at Squaw taking in the scene and hanging out with several friends who were running/crewing we were off before dawn up to Emigrant Pass.  Hiking all of the way up, a beautiful sunrise greeted us while being surrounded by bright yellow wildflowers.  Then the descent started and got stuck behind a congo line of runners who were so keen early on up the climb but didn't have the same adeptness to go downhill.  So after a lot of "Excuse me, on your left" talk I finally got some running room and developed into a good rhythm.  I altered my running gait to keep my stride short, thinking it would keep me conservative, but it would later be the culprit.  After getting through mile ~30 at Robinson Flat and seeing my crew (Marshall and Megan) for the first time I knew what was ahead. Lots of open and hot downhill.  I felt good and kept an easy pace until mile 40 and that's when signs of alien life entered the back of my knee. It felt like a small strain and it had me concerned knowing full well how small things become gargantuan things later in a 100.  However, it didn't really affect my running so I got a quick (albeit, ineffective) massage at the mile 40ish aid station hoping it would help.  It didn't matter at this point anyway because I started to get a drop in energy.  Feeling this way on the climb up Devils Thumb sucked and I plopped in a chair once I got to the aid station and started the caffeine train.  I got a small pick me up and was able to get to Last Chance feeling pretty good.  Then the climb started to Michigan Bluff and the feelings of crap came rushing back again.  Now my knee started to bother me a little more.  So I got to the aid station and had some medical staff help me.  I told them what I thought it was and a fellow PT tried to help me out.  Nothing really worked and I was still feeling like crap.  So I got some food down, saw my crew, and got out of there to the final canyon.  I started to feel a lot better going down Volcano Canyon but slowed on the next climb to Bath Road.  I saw Garret, picked him up and we made good time to Foresthill, where I was in better spirits.  After a fun pit stop we continued down the infamous Cal Street.  It took me a little while to get into a rhythm.  At Cal St 2 Aid I finally let out a large belch and instantly felt better.  Now I was ready to run.  We made great time to the river where I met Marshall and Megan.  Garret really helped push me on this section and I finally came back to life a little.  I sat down, took down some calories (I think), and picked up Marshall.  We had plenty of time to get to the finish for a sub-24 buckle.  I got up and my knee was even worse now.  We crossed the bone-chilling river and started the slog up to Green Gate.  It's not even steep and I felt bad just barely walking but the back of my knee and feet were killing me.  This is where my gait started to be affected.  I couldn't run normally anymore but I could "shuffle-limp" so I did that.  I wasn't taking in calories either so that compounded things but all I could focus on was my knee. Actually at this point, "stupid knee" is how I referred to it.  The next 12 miles were a blur and we arrived at mile 90 and I was completely spent.  I sat down and tried to eat something but I became really nauseous at anything I took.  Hal Koerner helped me a bit and seemed too excited for me. I wish I felt half as enthusiastic.  10 miles seemed an eternity but I had a comfortable 3.5 hours to do it in.  And it was an easy ten.  Simple right? I got up and knew instantly that the back of my knee could take no more.  I couldn't straighten it and I couldn't bend it without pain and trying to run was laughable.  So I limped out with Marshall and was pretty discouraged.  I knew it wasn't going to get any better.  On top of that the lack of calories caught up and I stopped in the middle of the trail.  I couldn't go anymore.  After arguing with Marshall on how I wanted to go back or take a nap "right now" he finally allowed me to rest and reset mentally.  After 15 minutes of lying down I got up and felt better.  But it was a slow limp walk and it was pretty pathetic.  Knowing that my "A" goal would not be achieved this close to the end and knowing I could hurt myself more considering I had a long backpacking trip in a week I had the intention to stop at Hwy 49: mile 93.5.  I got there, dejected, and asked Megan if I should drop.  I didn't know.  The injury now had affected my entire leg.  The back of the knee was swollen as well as the rest of the leg on down.  An MD looked at me and thought I tore a calf muscle.  So I lay in the cot contemplating whether it was worth continuing or not.  30 minutes passed and I was still unsure.  I got up and tried to walk but that was really hard to do.  The look of concern on Megan made me aware that I didn't look good either.  As I walked more though the knee started to loosen up, just enough.  I called out to Marshall and gave a quick nod toward the trail.  We would limp it on in.  The next 6 miles took forever and I finally made my way around the track and to the finish.  26:46.  The last 10 miles took me 6 hours.  The feelings of jubilation for making it and completing this historic race weren't there.  I felt sad on how this race ended and even bitter.  I didn't even want the buckle because it would only remind me of the way that race ended.  What it did leave me with is a hunger and need to run another 100.  And run it well.  I'm over slogging it out.  It gets old quick.  It's not how I want to race and I have no more interest in finishing races like that.  Little did I know....
My crew and pacers were great out there, dedicating their weekend for me.  I'm disappointed I couldn't put it together in the end and get the silver buckle for them, but I promise that won't be the case next time.  The community and support of Western States is huge and unlike I had ever seen.  Maybe one of these years, if I should be so lucky, I'll return and do this race some justice. 

Off to Robinson Flat Photo: ULTV

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