My Reflections on “States”
This one was fun. Not that my previous four 100 milers weren’t fun, but I have never been able to run as consistently through the full 100 miles. The short story is this. I see a rattlesnake, puke for the first time in about 35 ultras, run Cal St in three hours, and I get the last spot for automatic entry into next year’s race. I finish in 18:46 for 11th overall and 10th man. A one hour WS 100 PR.
Longer story. Ski patrolling two days a week put a little strain on my running this winter and I felt like I was a little behind in training when patrolling ended at the end of March. I could barely run 60 miles a week and the quality suffered because of fatigue from skiing. But I also lost my “real” halftime system administration job at the end of March so I had April and May to run and that is what I did. I got to really concentrate on my training for two months. Not a whole lot of time, but it was at the right time and just might be enough. Laurie and I spent a week in Michigan Bluff at our new friends’ Carol and Richard. There’s nothing to do in MB except go out on the trail. I ran something like 130 miles in seven days. Yikes. I’m either going to get fit or injured. I come down one other time at the end of May and run another big week, including 50 miles from Robinson Flat to the River with a big group of very experienced runners. Good stuff. A trip to Boise for a 52 miler the following week and another to Castle Crags for some heat and it’s taper time.
I get to the top of the first big climb to Emigrant Gap in 56 minutes and go into what I called quad preservation mode. I try running very easily down the hills so I’ll have some legs left when I get to Foresthill. It felt like I was running very slow and at times it seemed like I was holding people behind me back, but nobody wanted to pass. I hit Robinson Flat within a couple of minutes of my projected split (9:08) and slam down a can of beans. My wife Laurie, brother Chris, and friend Kelly are there for me. There are a ton of people and it is loud. Many people are yelling my name as I leave. Very motivating.
Lots of easy downhill miles to Deep Canyon Creek and I continue in my quad preservation mode. It is obviously hotter as I climb to Dusty Corners. At Dusty at about 11:20am my B crew of John, Sara, and Kevin give me another can of beans, cool me off and refill my pack and bottles. I’m trying not to concern myself with what place I’m in and am feeling pretty good with how my race is unfolding. My estimated split at Dusty was 11:10am and I’m not running hard at all.
On the relatively easy Pucker Point Trail I get passed by Mike Sweeney and I’m able to keep in contact with him through Last Chance. He is running well and by trying to hang with him we pass one runner on Pucker Point and then get ahead of Dave Terry and Kevin Sawchuck through the aid station. I had run the canyons many times this spring and knew I wanted to run the downs easy. Relax. Float. Sweeney drops me going down to Swinging Bridge and I’m alone when I see Angeles Crest winner Jorge Pacheco jogging slowly. He tells me it is not his day. Hmmm. I’m not supposed to be thinking about racing people yet, but I’m running very easily and passing people. This is good.
Devil’s Thumb passes by and I get excited about getting to Michigan Bluff since I had spent so much time there and met lots of people. Again I try to float on the big downhill to Eldorado Creek. It’s hot but not unbearably so. Dave passes me on the downhill. Not sure how far ahead of me he is, but just after Kaput Springs (aka the pipe) I see a fat rattlesnake in the trail. I easily step around it and then stop to admire it. It slithers off the trail, seemingly barely disturbed by me. On my training runs here this year I’d seen 3 bears and about a dozen snakes, but none of them rattlers. Very cool.
The climb to Michigan Bluff is not as quick as I had planned, but I manage to get past one more runner near the top. Good thing it is only 90 today because I’m struggling a bit with the heat and have to constantly douse to cool off. Michigan Bluff is as loud as Robinson and after weighing in I get directed into a cool shady spot in Carol and Richard’s yard. Lots of people are there to see me and I drink a mountain dew and eat a sandwhich. I leave Michigan at 2:53pm. My estimated split was 2:45pm. Somebody tells me I’m in 16th place. OK. I can start thinking about racing now.
In Volcano Canyon I pass one more runner but right behind me is Tim Twietmeyer. We’re cruising downhill in the exposed heat and here is yet another runner, waiting for somebody that knows the trail. If I don’t fit the bill the guy behind me sure does. Damn, this canyon is hot. Good thing it isn’t a “hot” day. Climbing Bath Rd I try to eat my third can of beans but almost puke on the first bite. Uh, I better get some soup at Foresthill. Tim catches me on the climb and we chat about the upcoming Cal St. I tell him and John Ticer, who’ll be pacing me from the river that I’m not crossing the river if I don’t run Cal St in 3 hours or less.
In Foresthill I sit down for the third and last time of the race and attempt to finish my can of beans and a cup of soup. Tim leaves the aid station and my brother Chris and I leave hoping to run with Tim down to the river. I think it is about 4:07pm or a little later. I get up quickly and start running fast. My quads feel great! About a minute later, still on Foresthill Road with lots of people on the side watching, I’m not feeling good at all. I stop. I’m gonna puke. Oh shit. Maybe five or six heaves and my stomach is empty. It actually didn’t hurt at all and believe it or not it is the first time I’ve puked in an ultra. I puke on my shoes and my legs. My stepdad, who is walking along with us, asks me if I want him to go to the car and get me a napkin. It was an interesting thought, but I pass on the offer and squirt some water on my legs to get the chunks off and start running. I’m a little pissed as I had really been focusing my training and the whole race today on getting to Foresthill with quads to run faster down Cal St. In both of my other states (yeah, in Oregon we call it western, but the Californians call the race states) Cal St. was a crawl. My worst section of both races.
We go easy to Cal 1 and I focus on getting both of my bottles down. I also eat a couple of gels which go down but not real comfortably. 38 miles on gels? That’s a little far but I guess I’ll have to do it. The legs are good and we’re running OK to Cal 2. Tim has only put four minutes on us. I’ll take that after puking. The rest of Cal St. is OK with great quads but an iffy stomach. A couple of miles left and we hear voices behind us and pretty soon Nikki Kimball and her pacer pass us. We stay with them and get to the river about 7:07pm. Chris said we started running in Foresthill after the puking episode at 4:11 so we did Cal St somewhere around three hours. I’ll take it.
We cross the river with Nikki and once on the other side Chris and John switch pacer numbers. I drink a cup of soup on the near side and then get a can of mountain dew on the far side. Only 22 miles to go. I need to get the dew to stay down so I walk up with Kevin, Kelly, and John and drink it. Chris is done and Laurie and Sara stay back with him as we continue up. After a few minutes we start running. We run most of the climb to Green Gate and in the aid station we see Tim again. He asks how I got behind him and then if I ran Cal St. in three hours. Yes! I tell him. Nikki is not far behind us and Tim and I leave together. I ask Tim what place we’re in and he says 13th, I think (somebody dropped at Green Gate). He lets me pass and then tells me that if we’re both in Auburn going for 10th man he’ll let me have it so I can get the automatic entry. He’ll get in because he is a board member. Very nice gesture but I hope not to have to use it. John is loving this and he has watched the runners in front of us and is convinced that several of them will come back to us. First we see Sweeney and we pass him. Next we see Simon Mtuy. We’re running almost everything and pass him. We get to Auburn Lake Trails with Nikki and Simon right behind. A guy we call 208 (Todd Holmes) has just left the station, and Sweeney and Tim are not far behind as we can hear their voices. This is 85 miles into the race and there are five of us going for the 10th spot (Nikki is the women’s leader and I’m not racing her at all). This is fun, but it would be nice to gap these guys so I can relax mentally. I push hard out of ALT to get past 208 and a couple of miles into the section Nikki wants by. We step aside and both she and Simon (and pacers) go by. I didn’t know Simon was there! It is dark. Nikki is now pushing the pace with Simon in tow and me now hanging on. John has to constantly remind me to stick with them each time I drop off the pace. The three of us get to Browns Ravine at the same time. We run the five miles in 53 minutes which is by far the fastest I’ve run that section.
John keeps me focused and we get out of the aid station before either of them. 10 miles to go. The barn is in olfactory range. Keep pushing. Break 19. 10th man. Things are looking good but I still can’t relax with the slew of talented runners behind. Before the climb to 49 crossing Nikki catches us again and hammers up the climb, dropping her pacer and me. Nobody behind. That is where we stay to the finish. 18:46, 16 minutes off my projected splits.
As with my other 100s, I’m very lucky to have so many supportive people. From those that came from out of state to help crew and pace (Laurie, Chris, Kelly, John, Sara, Kevin) to my family members and friends in California, to the many people who watched the webcast from home. Thank you very very much. You know where I’ll be next June 25th. And I’ll be the one wearing bib number M10!