My 2011 Western States 100 Miler Experience…Living through it was all I was hoping for!
Tammy Massie Bib #217
"Team Tammy" (Except for Tristan who had climbed up to Escarpment Pass so he could cheer me on as I got to mile ~3 of the race and nearly 8,000 feet in Elevation)
Western States 100 miler, “The Big Dance”, “States”, “WS100” or “Western” (as I call it) is a race like no other. It is an amazing experience for new ultra-runners as well as seasoned veterans. Although WS100 was my 11th hundred miler start it might have been the race I was least sure about finishing to date (later this summer I am running the Grand Slam which includes Vermont 100, Leadville 100 and I have a conditional acceptance to Wasatch 100).
While standing on the start line I realized that I was completely out of my league. I would label myself as a marginally incompetent ultramarathoner. And that is being kind. Lining up next to other runners I was dismayed to observe I probably had the most stuff on my person (~15 lbs of equipment including random stuff, treats and beverages in my hydration pack and in my fanny pack “sparkeley” and even a SPOT Rescue Beacon). I was all set if I went off trail and ended up in Mexico with some peso’s or Canadian money if I headed north. Of course I had my requisite spare ponches (yes that is plural), lip balms (again plural in fact 3 lip balms-one huckleberry flavored, one pink tinted and the lip balm that could also be used on hotspots in a pinch). I had lots of treats including several bags of different foods: smokehouse almonds, almond M&M’s, marathon bars, nutter butters and even some dates (because one should always have some fruit each day!).
My defense system consists of my SPOT rescue beacon (to be carried the entire race), a pink pepper spray (to be carried the entire race), and in my drop bags at various points: pink snake proof gaiters (for both Saturday and Sunday when we will be in the sun) and a hydration pack with a pink superhero “T” cape for the last section that has been a location in which a runner had been attacked many years ago and cougars have been spotted. I felt I was ready for any encounter I might have. And if I got too lost I was going to be well fed and hydrated for a bit of time and would have stuff to barter with if I was with others.
I also had little med packs including various over the counter medications for pain and upset stomach as well toilet paper and single use cottenelle wet wipes. In addition to having overpacked with spare layers even in my hydration pack ziplocked in case I took a spill in the water crossings or if I ended up getting wet in the snow, I noticed I was the only runner with pants on, several layers including thermal shirts/windbreaker and I was stressing about running in snow, getting my feet wet (and dirty), cougar attacks and rattlesnakes to name a few of my numerous fears.
I took a deep breath and try to give myself a pep talk in my mind. This was to be the first of many pep talks throughout the day. By the end I was actually verbalizing my pep talk which included “harness your inner puffi” alluding to our youngest but toughest cat who knows no fear and seems to live life with reckless abandon (which I guess you can do when you have 9 lives!)
But let me start at the very beginning of the day. At 3:00 a.m. the first of my alarms went off. But I was already up having been really anxious about missing the start. Pretty soon I was getting wake up calls from my friends on the East coast. Pacer Dan gave a quick call and wished me luck. Then a few minutes later my frequent hill running partner Tammy B gave me a second wake up call. We talked briefly and she indicated all our hill training should help me finish WS100. While I agreed that our hill training certainly would help, I had never experience a race quite like WS100 so I was nervous.
As I got ready Tristan got up and headed up the mountain to Escarpment. He was going to hike up in the dark to about 3 miles up the mountain to cheer me (and other runners) on. After Tristan left, Pacer Shane got up, then my dad got up shortly thereafter. As I completed getting dressed and ready pictures were taken and discussions were had. Crewette/Pacer Bella then got up and we all chatted briefly and plans for the day were reconfirmed. I was feeling pretty good and the weather seemed like it was going to be delightful. Just a bit cool and sunny. I was really excited.
Once I was ready it was time to head to check in. This involved a short elevator trip then about a 100 meter walk from our suite in the Squaw Valley Lodge. After about 30 seconds I was in the midst of many other runners ready to get my bib, chip and final weigh in. My weight continued to be 133.8. This is a little high for me but I might have been enjoying a few too many ice cream sandwiches, banana splits and caramel apples throughout the spring. Or it could be that I was well hydrated….
Wandering around the check in area I briefly hang out with several other grand slammers. They notice I am eating my breakfast of champions “Pink Snowballs”. It is also commented on that my outfit (pink) and my breakfast food match. I am to keep a monochromatic theme! Also I love snowballs. They probably are going to be banned sometime in my life but the gooey goodness of mashmallow and coconut on a crème filled cupcake makes me happy and tastes so good.
After getting my bib and chip it was time to put them on. I was all set. Time to chat, take a final bathroom break and make sure I was ready for what was going to be the toughest day of my life.
As I headed outside I was pleasantly surprised to see Pacer Iva. I now had a pretty complete entourage (less Tristan who was on the mountain). My Dad, my pacers: Iva and Shane and my crew/pacer: Bella. I am pretty happy that I had the sense to get a group shot of all of us while waiting for the countdown clock to get to “0”.
I was super excited but very nervous. I knew this was going to be the biggest challenge in my life. I knew I would face treacherous terrain, a course I was very unfamiliar with, lots of snow, stream crossings, single track and my biggest fear: getting my feet dirty! Seriously!! I really do not belong in the ultrarunning crowd and probably bring shame to all the other ultrarunners!