Burning Fat at 2011 WS 100

Finish line at #WS100 is an awesome display of human achievement and exhaustion. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

That was my tweet a little after 5am on Sunday, after the last 24-hour finisher pushed around the track to cross the line with about 15 seconds to spare before the clock reached 5am.  She got the 125th silver buckle on this cool 82-degree day.  The physical and emotional effort was apparent as the medical folks tried to control her so they could take her vitals.  She stood, slumped, eyes closed, breathing hard, and not responding to any of them.  If you were not familiar with what she had just done you might think she wasn’t happy, but everybody in the stands was going nuts.  She was exhausted both physically and mentally.  Who knows how long she and her pacer had been calculating exactly how fast they had to go to reach the finish in time.  She did it and everybody watching was energized by her achievement.  Great stuff.

I had finished more than three hours earlier, AJW seven, both of us just sitting around on the Placer HS track, taking it all in. We joked about how far behind him I finished; talked about puking, gels, bears, snow, falling down, etc; reveled in the awesome performances of many of our friends and the whole field in general; wondered why different runners dropped or still hadn’t finished; and dreamed about our future roles with the race.  Neither of us wanted to be anywhere else, and, for the last eight years for AJW, and I don’t know how many for me, that is where we have been.  We both dozed off in our bags occasionally, but never strayed far enough to escape the voice of the announcer, who for the second year in a row, was the well-informed, shmack-talking Tropical John Medinger (if he didn’t give you a hard time then he either doesn’t know you or like you) and his much sweeter better half, Lisa Henson.

But there was just a little bit of effort required to get there this year …

The snow up high was awesome.  Pretty icy and hard to follow the yellow ribbons but it was fun.  I loved it and wished there was 30+ miles of it.  I found myself moving past much more talented runners with ridiculous ease.  They all passed me back soon after leaving the snow around mile 15 which made it feel like I had gone out too fast.  To get a better idea of what the 12 miles (?) of snow was like, check out this video from Gary Wang, the man behind realendurance.com, somewhere in the high country.  I’m at the 1:44 mark.

The C snow route was enjoyable until we hit Mosquito Ridge aid station at mile 31.  This was close to the regular Miller’s Defeat aid station (34.4).  From Mosquito we ran backwards on the real course for about two miles before coming right back to Miller’s Defeat.  That sucked!  In the old days we would have just run towards Auburn and if was only 96 miles nobody would have cared as it was only about the journey from Squaw to Auburn.  But in today’s world of Garmin-wearing anal retentives the race has to be exactly 100.2 miles.  OK, so it really wasn’t that bad and apparently the views at the turnaround were really good, but I was getting a little grouchy and ready to make progress towards the finish line.

Once we reached the turnaround of the little out and back it was all downhill to the Swinging Bridge (46) at the base of Devils Thumb (47.8) and I picked up the pace a bit.  My splits were great through the canyons and it wasn’t until the climb up to Michigan Bluff that I started to fade just a bit.  I had caught up with Meghan at both the Thumb and El Dorado but couldn’t stay with her on the climb to the Bluff (55.7) where we got to see our crew for the first time.  It was 2:50pm and I was treated royally by my crew Greyson, Renee, Chris, and John.

At Michigan Bluff 55 miles. Photo by Marianne Bush

Volcano Canyon passed by slowly but eventually I was running with my bro in Foresthill (62), pretty much on my target splits a little after 4:10pm.  I took a few calories in the form of soup, Coke, and fruit at Foresthill and then again at Cal-1 (Dardenelles, 65.7) but waited until the Mackey Hill at mile 66 to take a gel.  As I had said on Thursday night at a WS panel discussion I spoke at, “everybody pukes.”  So, I puked.  We kept going and I puked again.  This time I noticed red stuff came out and I wondered if it was blood.  Chris said it was just the watermelon I had at Cal-1 so we shuffled on to Cal-2 (Peachstone, 70.7) where I decided I’d sit for a few minutes and try to get things turned around instead of just plugging forward. I was frustrated.  It was there that I ran into Scott Jaime also taking up space in a chair with the same look on his face that I imagine was on mine.  I ate crackers, Sprite, and broth, and as I sat in the chair next to Scott I felt like I was going to puke again.  Screw this, I thought.  It’s one thing to puke and then feel better, but it is another thing to puke and feel like you’re going to puke every time you put something in your stomach.  As I sat there and felt sorry for myself, my brother reminded me of something.

“You know that race that you blog about all the time? You know, Western States?” he said. “Well, we’re at that race and you might want to think about racing.”

We left not long after Scott but arrived at the river crossing (78) at the same time. Scott was genuinely excited to be crossing the river with us.  What a quality guy.

Crossing The American River With Scott Jaime

Ticer began pacing me here and we walked up with Greyson, Renee, and Chris.  I managed to get down almost a whole can of Mountain Dew on the hike/jog to Green Gate (79.8).  Ticer, who has paced WS more times than he’s run it, has not paced a “fast” finish since 2004 and it was obvious to both of us that these last 20 weren’t going to be fast either.  Every time I tried to take something I felt like I would puke again, which would piss me off, so he suggested that I didn’t need many calories.  At the pace we were going I was almost exclusively burning fat and, well, I had plenty of it.  I did remind him that earlier in the day my 8-year-old shorts were falling off and that we needed to use a safety pin to tighten them up. I also suggested that if I ran out of fat perhaps I could burn brain cells as Mark Brotherton had told us others thought that’s what he could use for fuel the last seven miles in 1989.

We continued to plod along, burning fat, and I kept trying to calculate what I’d have to do to break 21.  I didn’t do well on the flats where we couldn’t justify walking. I ran, but it was so pathetic that it seemed pointless.  I needed terrain.  I finally got it after highway 49 (93.5) and I was able run fairly fast down to No Hands Bridge (96.8), passing four runners on the descent – the last of whom was Todd Braje who I encouraged to run with me from No Hands.  He said he didn’t give a f%^& about breaking 21 hours.  Ticer got back in front on the bridge and we got past one more runner in Auburn before reaching the track and hearing AJW on the microphone talking shmack to me.

My eighth buckle did not come easy.  It could be that I can’t remember how hard the previous seven were or that I’m just not as tough as I used to be, but the bottom line is I persevered and ran my second slowest time 20:47, good for 52nd overall and 41st man. As Twiet reminded me when I finished and he gave me my medal, I not only suck bad enough that I can’t crack the top ten men anymore, I now can’t even crack the top ten women!  I can always count on Twiet to deliver good shmack and he didn’t disappoint.  But, in my defense, never before have the top ten men all run under 16:40 and the top ten women run under 20:40.  Amazingly deep fields.

Greg Soderlund, RD, and Four Sunsweeters With Buckles

So what is next for me?  Well, I’ve been open about my quest for the 10-year buckle, and with only two left to go it definitely is within my grasp.  But, an opportunity has come up which might allow me to watch the winners finish next year.  Rest assured, I will be at Placer High School next June 23 & 24 in some capacity.  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.


  1. Craig-
    You just amaze me. You are always happy and positive. Being one who finishes at the back of the group, it is always appreciated when those you have been done for HOURS enthusiastically cheer for us. Good well done!

  2. States continues to be the “family reunion” that I look forward to the most each and every year. It was great to be a part of yet another one. Strong finish. I woulda gotten a split from the waterfall start, but I was too busy laughing at the Jiz’s play by play on the microphone.

    Remember, it was YOU who have taught all of us about solving our problems and keeping our eyes on that finish in Auburn. Your knowledge has saved many a DNF and most of us owe our buckles to you in more than one way.

    Good job getting it done. It may not have been your fastest, but it’s sweet, nonetheless.

    • When Todd Braje went by me on Cal St and I told him I was having stomach problems he said to me “solve your problems.” The tables were definitely turned. It sure is easy to say it, but when you actually have to do it, it ain’t always easy. Thanks for helping out pre-race. I’m sure you would have also helped during the race but AJW was so far ahead of me…

    • Way to make the top ten, Amy. Pretty cool you were able to earn your ticket at Waldo and then run well at WS. I will tell a little secret. I didn’t puke until about my 5th hundred and now I puke at everyone. So, there’s hope for you.

      • I do puke in hundreds–didn’t start happening until a year or 2 ago, but have puked consistently in the past few. I’m also not sore, so I’m guessing I just need to work a little harder next year. 🙂

  3. “We kept going and I puked again. This time I noticed red stuff came out and I wondered if it was blood. Chris said it was just the watermelon I had at Cal-1 so we shuffled on to Cal-2” – Now I finally know why your pacer was closely investigating your puke in the bushes. Way to gut out your performance. Just like you, I’ll be between Squaw and Placer High next June 23 and 24. At the least, we can drink beer and make fun of Jizzle Wizzle.

  4. Yowser, Craig. It’s like I always say, in every 100, there will be something that will screw you up – you can count on it. So, instead of laying on cot with low blood pressure and general weakness, you decided to puke and crowl for a change. It didn’t hit me until you quoted John M. “You can’t even break top 10 girls” (gotta say, man is clever and funny). I read Pam’s blog when she said “it was sad to pass Thornley”, but it didn’t ring the bell till now. Oh, man. You had made it in. 8 finishes. Seriously, ya’lls stroies make me want to come back. To have my own story to tell. Hearty congratulations.
    On another note, how serious are you about the opportunity, and what are the chances?

  5. Hey Craig. Great race and great report. And, you are right, sitting with you at the track for hours as the night turned to morning was absolutely the highlight of my weekend. Let’s do it again next year!


    • AJW, yes, that was a highlight sitting there with our feet in that nasty pool water. No wonder my feet are infected this week. Not sure how to put into words what I feel about your race. I will admit I doubted you could run 16:45. You are proving that the Twiet comparison is spot on. Except, you’ve now run faster than he has at WS! I bow to thee.

  6. LB-

    Great (and succinct) report! I won’t soon forget what AJW said on Thursday night: that WS is a microcosm of Life: it’s about *solving problems* and the triumph over those obstacles; it ain’t always about dominating**. Maybe that’s what WS has been about for you, the past two races. However, there’s definitely a <18hr WS left in those legs; your training this year demonstrated that.

    (**unless, of course, you're AJW. Then it always is.)

    I'll definitely be back in '12 in some form; I hope to take in an all-nighter at Placer HS, instead of "burning CPK" with a 100+ fever back at the hotel like this year!

    Lastly: Thanks to you and the "EUG crew" for helping me and making me truly believe that 100.2 is possible. Despite the ups and downs of 6-25, I never doubted that I would make it.


    • OOJ, your performance might have been the most surprising of the Eugene crew. Having missed all that training and with your propensity to get hurt, I figured you’d run yourself into the hospital or be crippled for life afterwards. I assume you got your CPK cleared without IVs? Great job getting a buckle on your first try with a very solid time.

  7. Well said LB. I have to say many years ago when I began running again it was you that turned me on to ultras. After finishing my fist 100 and then turning around and witnessing States 2 weeks later I completely understand why all the excitement. One day I will cross that line and shake Twiet’s hand. Thanks Craig.

  8. Nice write up Craig…you’re not thinkin’ about not racing next year are you? I thought you’d at least keep toeing the line as long as the buckle color didn’t turn yellow on ya 🙂 I can’t believe they let Jizzle Wizzle into the announcer’s booth…

  9. What are you saying? That you are going to be the race director? I understand the article on Greg to state that he will leave in two years. So why don’t you get in your last two races for the 10 year buckle and take the job then? And besides, Norm and Greg have a heavy medical background. You can’t even tell the difference between watermelon and blood 🙂

  10. Really? RD? That’d be great – I think you’re the perfect candidate! But then you wouldn’t have time to hang around and visit at the finish line. That was fun having you there to cheer Annie in with me – thanks.
    Need a reference???


    • Yeah, sure, why not try. Kinda scary when I think about all the people who want to run and do run, but I know I can do the job. We’ll see how it plays out. And, yes, it was fun watching Annie finish. She was kinda cutting it close, though. Maybe she wanted it more dramatic.

  11. Awesome job, Craig, and nice write up as well. Somehow I didn’t see you all weekend except when you were up getting your buckle, so no chance to say hello. Glad you enjoyed your weekend, as usual. Your spirit for the race never fails to inspire. And if Waldo is any indication, you would make a fabulous WS RD. Recover well!

    • Hi April, that has always been one of the goals of this blog. Glad you didn’t have a jacked up CPK after the race, but sorry it didn’t work out as planned. As we were following you late I was expecting you to just squeak under the cutoff like you did at Waldo.

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