No Hands Bridge. Where our story begins and ends...
“Brian! Don’t look! Look away man, look away!”
I was able to squeak out those words to my somewhat freaked-out pacer and friend, Brian Tinder, before I vomited for a third time as we crossed No Hands Bridge (mile 97), the fifth time since leaving Green Gate (mile 80).
A perfect topping, literally, to a not-so-perfect day…
100 Brutal Miles: From Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA.
Looking dapper for pre-race check-in.
Minutes before the start. Sharing some quality time with Brian Tinder, from Flagstaff, AZ (my crew and pacer) and Tim Olson from Ashland, OR (crew at Robinson). (Photo by Shahid Ali)
This year’s Western States was like no other I had previously witnessed. The competition had arrived with a fury. And, as billed, competitors challenged each other all day long. Looking back, I could tell I didn’t exhibit the same frame of mind as many of runners who toed the line in Squaw Valley Saturday morning.
Ideally things would have played out differently for me over the weekend of June 26th-27th,, 2010. I had grand visions of racing closer to the front of the pack, but I discovered early on that this wasn’t going to materialize.
The Start (photo by Glenn Tachiyama)
Running up the Poppy Trail on the Snow Altered Route. Note French Meadows Reservoir in the background. (photo by Glenn Tachiyama)
After a conservative but decent feeling climb up to Emigrant Pass, I found myself quickly struggling, slipping and sliding in the snow, slush, water and mud along Lyon’s Ridge. Once I reached this year’s special “Snow Route” course alteration things didn’t improve. During the descent to Talbot Creek and the fast road miles to the Poppy Aid Station I struggled to keep a decent pace. I watched as many runners whipped on by and disappeared down the road ahead.
Once on the Poppy Trail, a undulating single-track that followed the shores of French Meadows Reservoir, I knew my race strategy clearly had to change. I took the opportunity under the big trees to slow things down, regroup and adjust my attitude and goals. I decided that this would be a race I would have to run consistently and smart. I’d have to maximize the strength and speed I had on this day, not that of what I wished I had. My milk was spilt and I was determined not to cry over it. Pity parties suck, and besides I didn’t have time to send out any invitations.
New socks for wet feet at Robinson Flat (mile 30).
Passing through Robinson Flat Aid Station. Wishing that 30 miles was all that we needed to do today. (photo by Shahid Ali)
So, I set out, like the other 328 finishers, and weaved in and out of canyons, crossed streams and ridges, ate dust, hid from the sun and ran through the night all while passing through aid stations filled with caring and dedicated volunteers. Along the way I found plenty of great things to make this a most memorable race experience:
- I was able to spend several miles with old co-worker and Rogue Valley Runner Chris Rennaker. We complained about the snow (one step forward, two steps back) on the trail out of Robinson Flat (mile 30) and then shared a few miles on the climb to Michigan Bluff (mile 56). He went on to finish his first Western in an outstanding 20:03:08.
- I was paced from Foresthill (mile 62) to the Finish line in Auburn by my good friend and fellow Flagstaffian Brian Tinder. Tinder, an Auburn native, finally experienced Western for the first time. I was happy to spend nine hours with him as he took in the whole show.
- I had the pleasure of setting the pace temporarily and getting to know New York’s Oz Pearlman on Cal Street and Massachusetts’s Todd Walker from Green Gate to Brown’s Bar. Being an east coast native myself, it was a good to spend some quality time with a couple fellows that frequented my old haunts.
- Before, during and after the race I enjoyed catching-up with and being cheered-on by a large and good-hearted contingent of folks from Ashland, Oregon. My last home before I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. Reacquainting myself with these friends helped me move along the course.
- And finally, this year I continued past Green Gate confidently where I pulled the plug during my 2007 race. And I was able to finish my sixth Western States, my 153rd ultra and 23rd 100-miler.
Coming into Dusty Corners (mile 38). (photo by Jamie Donaldson)
Vaseline! Liberal use of this petroleum product is a good thing. (photo by Karolina Wyszynska)
Awaiting the Buckle. Flanked by east-coaster Todd Walker (left) and Rogue Valley Runner Chris Rennaker (right).
This is what all the clatter and chatter's about.
Showing off some hardwear. Flagstaff's Eric Bohn is there to congratulate. Bohn paced 7th place finisher Glen Redpath (photo by Sara Wagner).
Congratulations to all of 2010's Western States runners!
Thinking about November...