Finished my first 100 mile race and first WS100 which I was lucky enough to get into on my first try.
I was behind the recommended pace to finish under 30 hours for most
of the first half of the race but I stayed steady and finished 230 out
of 277 finishers out of 388 starters on what might I have heard was the 4th
hottest WS100 race so far.
Squaw Valley to Robinson Flats
There were hints of light at the 5:00 am start and the beginning of the course (which was a dirt road up the ski area) was lined with lights. The first aid station was in 3.5 miles and it would be a serious climb. Recommended pace was to stay faster then a 24 minute pace which I did (17:33, 20:14, 18:24, and 20:03), the peak was about a half mile after the aid station, then it leveled off and started to go do down hill. Just after the aid station it got really steep (almost hands and knees steep but not quite). That first big hill had worried me when planning out this race since I have really no experience climbing up 2500' in 4 miles at the start of a 100 mile race which continues with up and down up and down for the rest of the race, so I was glad to have at least survived that.
Ok, 24.7 miles to go. Next aid station, Lyon Ridge in 7 miles. The recommended time to get there was by 7:40 am, I showed up at 7:45. The little amount I was ahead at the escarpment had vanished. When the course got "easier" my pace didn't pick up right away. I'm not very good at running on very rocky stuff, in fact I'm pretty bad at it, but no doubt I did what I could. The last three miles coming into Lyon Ridge aid station were in the 12:xx's so that at least kept me close.
Similar story with the section between Lyon Ridge and Red Star ridge, I arrived at the next aid station still behind the recommended pace but still well ahead of the cut off. The weather was still pretty decent. The low 50's from the start were long gone but it wasn't bad, although it was starting to turn warmer.
From Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon, I averaged a 15:30 pace which was a little bit better for me, but now I was 12 minutes behind the suggested 30 hour pace. After the aid station, I continued descending into the canyon. I knew it would be a hot and tough climb out of it but that I could do it.
There was a stream criss-crossing the descent and a much larger one at the bottom. I would stop and soak my hat and let the water spill over me. At the bigger water crossing I was up almost to my knees in water which felt great. Kept on going and began to climb. The climb seemed to take forever with miles in the 18's and 19's.
One of the BEST moments of the race was when I could first see the Robinson Flat aid station. There was tape marking the way in and volunteers directing me in. I knew that once I got here I would at least have the advantage of knowing the rest of the terrain since I had run all of it from Robinson Flat to the end during the training run (minus the actual river crossing). And even more so, when I saw my family I completely welled up inside with emotion. They were the biggest support crew there all dressed in bright green shirts cheering for me!!
They later told me I didn't look so good. I know I didn't feel so good either. I was still 12 minutes behind the suggested pace, but at least I hadn't lost more ground, and from here on out I knew what I was in for as far as the trail goes.
Robinson Flat to Dusty Corners
Between the next two aid stations I averaged 16:10 and 15:16. After leaving Robinson Flat I had a fairly short climb of less than a mile, followed by some tough downhill which would give way to a relatively easy run on a fire road. I also heard one noise I didn't want to hear for the rest of the race. I could hear three warning blasts from the Robinson Flat aid station. Starting at 30 minutes from the hard cut off the sound three horn blasts, then two blasts at 20 minutes, and one at 10 minutes as a warning to those who are getting close to the aid station to hurry up. Fortunately I would not hear this sound again.
During the excitement for seeing my crew and getting onto familiar surroundings I had forgotten two things. I forgot to switch garmins (as the one I was wearing was only good for another three hours or so) and forgot to grab the muscle milk I was going to drink for protein. I wasn't planning on seeing them again until Michigan Bluffs at mile 55. But, one piece of advice I had heard was to not let little problems worry you. I would just run until the garmin died and then hopefully find someone running a good pace to tag along with and I would just eat more peanuts for the missing protein!
Dusty Corners to Michigan Bluffs
My crew said I didn't look so good at Robinson Flat (29.7), but
looked a bit better at Dusty Corners (mile 38).
I wasn't expecting to see them at Dusty Corners. It's "only" 8 miles to run from Robinson Flat to Dusty Corner, but I think it is about a 30 mile drive over some pretty tight and twisty dirt roads. They made it somehow. It felt like a huge turning point. I was now only 3 minutes behind the recommended 30 hour pace, I had a fresh garmin, downed a muscle milk and was able to see part of my crew again (they had split in two to get here).
From Dusty Corners to the Last Chance aid station I picked up even a little bit more time. I was still 3 minutes behind the 30 hour pace, but this meant that I was also over an hour ahead of the absolute cut off time.
At the Last Chance aid
station (mile 43.8) the volunteers said I looked a lot better than many
of the people who had come through earlier (but then I left the aid
station without my camelback and had to turn back to get it, wasting 2-3
At Devils Thumb (47.8) I was in 351st place, and that would
be the last point where I was so far back. Heading down towards El
Dorado Creek (mile 52.9) I looked across the canyon to the trees and
they moved towards me and then back, then towards me again. Ok, don't
look at the trees. On the march up to Michigan Bluff (mile 55.7) it
felt like something was in my shoe on my left foot, I stopped a couple
of times but couldn't find anything (it was the start of a big blister
which fortunately didn't shut me down).
Michigan Bluffs to Foresthill
When I reached the top of
Michigan Bluff I saw my family for the third time. Jamie paced me and
we had a blast running through the dark to Foresthill School at mile 62,
even through the dreaded Volcano Canyon. All of the light faded a little bit after 9:00 but it the race felt a little easier and I felt like I could relax. Jamie doesn't run trails very much but she navigated through the dark like a pro and kept up positive conversations the whole way.
As we approached the school at Foresthill,
all the kids in my crew ran alongside me and Thomas said "Dad, were
running with you so you don't hallucinate" or something like that.
Here is the "pacer hand off" where Jamie (2nd from the right) , passes pacer duty over to my brother Tim (far left), who will run with me for the next 16 miles to the Rucky Chucky River Crossing.
Foresthill to Rucky Chucky
Switched pacers to my brother Tim at mile 62 who ran with me
until we reached the river crossing at Rucky Chucky. We ran past
aliens (decorations), Christmas decorations, and a guy throwing up. We held a pretty steady pace. This section was a lot easier to run in the day especially when it was on a day starting fresh. However, for already having done 62 miles, it went pretty well.
Jim and Jamie met
us at the river and Jim crossed with me, hand over hand holding onto
the cable as the volunteers told us exactly where to step.
Rucky Chucky to Finish
Jim ran me in the rest of the way. As it got light out again it
didn't feel like I had just run for 24 hours but had entered into a new
race.I felt good coming into the Auburn Lake Trails aid station (mile
85.2) and had just picked up the pace, but coming out of the aid station
my legs felt sore and heavy for the first time. It scared me and I
decided I shouldn't push so hard, just try and hang on.
We saw Tim and Jamie at No Hands Bridge (96.8), with Jamie ready
to pace me but Jim was still going strong so decided to keep going to
the end. The temperature climbed into the 90's as we climbed the last
big ascent of the course. After passing Robie point people were
congratulating me which made me nervous as I wasn't done yet. I started
to push a little bit early then backed off until I was close to the
track. The whole crew was there waiting for me as I took off into a
sprint around the track to the finish line.
Wow, what an amazing adventure. Predawn to morning, to afternoon, to evening, to night and back to morning again. My legs held up, my stomach held up and my kidneys held up. I remembered to have fun. I had a ton of help along the way. Somehow it all came together and I earned my finisher's belt buckle.