Saturday, October 15, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: the River Crossing to Green Gate

Little did I know there was the potential for aliens on the course. I had pepper spray for bears/cougars, I had snake proof gaiters for rattlesnakes, copperheads (do they have these in CA?) and a cape to make myself large for the puma's. But I had nothing for alien abduction...but in the future I will be prepared.

This was at the alien aid station which was filled with super nice and helpful volunteers (as with all the aid stations at Western States 100 miler). I am a little confused about what the alien was holding in it's hand but I believe it might have been the course marking ribbon. Or it could be a human probber. It's a tough call.

I do not believe I was abducted however, I think Iva and I might have seen a fox and/or a skunk. As I recall foxes do have a scent like a skunk and at the same time I smelled the skunk like odor is when I saw the fox like creature.

As we waited for the next runner to catch up for the ferry across the river I chatted with the volunteers. I re-thanked all the volunteers along the steep climb down yelling at the top of my lungs. Then I burst into song! It was time for “Row Row Your Boat!:” I may have changed the words a bit including the suggestion they should row row row the boat to Auburn! I was not above skipping the next 20 miles or so particularly since a lot was to be in the dark. And I love raft rides.

I may have made a spectacle of myself. But I was having so much fun and everyone was so WONDERFUL! And by this time I was no longer hearing the air horn creeping up behind me so I was starting to believe that I could make it to the finish assuming all went well.

As we waited patiently for the next runner his pacer joined us in the boat. It was my friend Jimmy Dean Freeman’s brother from the SoCal Coyotes. I knew Jimmy from JJ100 so it was cool to meet his brother. Finally his runner arrived. Sadly his runner did not appreciate the crossing as much as I did. And he looked a bit pukey. I tried to discretely move away because I think puking is contagious and on a boat you are kind of limited in how you can escape. In fact after finishing we learned he did puke pretty quickly after getting to the other side of the river.

The crossing went pretty quickly. Perhaps even faster as I started yelling, “Faster, Faster!” to encourage our rowers to get the lead out (or whatever the boating term for rushing is). They did row quickly and efficiently thus all too soon we were across and my brief stint at sitting was over. Because of potential puking guy, I scurried out pretty quickly. Somehow I was relieved of my life jacket (this I really have no recollection of) and I was being gently handed from the boat personnel to the land personal over a small jetty. And it was back to running/walking.

After a quick “Thank you” to the rafting volunteers and a really loud “THANK YOU” for the volunteers on the other side I was ready to head up the 1 + mile hill to Green Gate. What an AMAZING experience. In fact I would say it is the memory that may be a top 10 in my life.

As we passed the far Rucky Chucky aid station I grabbed a bite or two and a small glass of ginger ale to ward off sour stomach. Although I had a drop bag at this aid station, I did not make use of it but simply headed up to Green Gate which I was going to get a fresh pacer: Pacer Shane.

Hiking up to Green Gate I knew it was going to be a bit steep and long. But it was nothing compared to earlier in the day. And at the top I would get to see Shane and Tristan. This motivated me to keep moving forward with purpose. I was getting pretty excited and knew that I was feeling super strong and so happy. I had made it 78 miles and I was moving forward with purpose.

As Iva and I arrived at Green Gate I was impressed with the green gate decorated with christmas lights. It was really cool. But there was a problem. No Tristan or Shane. I ate and drank than moved along a bit alarmed. I told Iva I could keep running by myself because by this time she was fatigued and her legs were starting to bother her. She had committed to 25 miles and had made it that far so I was happy. I knew the sun would be rising moderately soon. And I have dropped pacers before and although a bit of a bummer I figured I could keep moving forward alone. This anxiety was soon lifted when we rounded the final hill and there was Tristan and Shane as well as other pacers and pacers. Unfortunately the volunteers were not letting them go to the aid station and the aid station volunteers were not communicating this information to runners, which was very disconcerting.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: Foresthill to the River Crossing

You are only allowed one pacer in this area so Iva and a very nice volunteer help me with my shoe change. During my shoe change, I am not the well-oiled machine I hoped to be. But I don’t screw up either, which is good. I take off everything on my feet and wipe up fastidiously. This gets some comments from the peanut gallery. But I am happy to be off my feet for a few minutes and ensuring my feet a clean, dry, well glided and do not have any issues that could become catastrophe’s are important to me. I then do the same for my other foot. This time I pay particular attention when putting on my zensah sleeves having experienced a bit of a fiasco earlier in the day.

After taking care of my feet it is time to wet wipe my hands and take out my contacts. Ahh! What a relief. Because my contacts are so thick (thanks to very bad astigmatism), my eyes bother me a lot when wearing contacts. Mix in lack of humidity and dust and my eyes were a disaster. In fact later at Dardenelles my eyes continue to bother me so much I ask a volunteer to put my eye drops in my eyes because I am not skilled at this (in fact I am not skilled at much and sometimes it just shocks me that I make it through any given day!). Finally I complete all my tasks, it is time to eat.

I grab a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of soup and head off for the finish line. I am past mile 62 and for the first aid station since mile 20 I do not hear the air horn! I want to keep it this way.

Running out of Foresthill I am a little bummed that I seem to lose members of “Team Tammy”: Tristan, Shane and Bella pretty quickly although they could run about half a mile with me. Oh well, it’s probably because I am running too fast!

Once Iva and I get to the turnoff of Foresthill Road I warn Iva that we are going to hit a fairly steep section soon. We have a brief respite then somehow the steep section I make it down without any issues. It is kind of odd because I had made a mental note that we had a pretty challenging section immediately following Foresthill. Perhaps it was being so excited about not hearing the air horn, being well fed/hydrated or knowing for the remainder of the race I would be escorted to the finish!

After announcing how I spent my day: running, followed by more running, with a little more running for good measure I ask Iva about how everyone on “Team Tammy” spent their day. This includes what they did as well as what was eaten (in fact a good meal can entertain me for hours!).

Iva chats about their daily activities. After getting woken up by my cell phone (the SPOT people called that cell phone as well to assess my situation), Iva, Bella, Shane, Tristan and my dad packed the hotel room then headed to Donner Pass to see the museum. Each of my friends learned what a disaster it is to go to a museum with my dad who likes to read all the placards. After several hours they all bailed while my dad stayed at the museum until likely closing!

Iva mentioned that the highlight of this museum was seeing how deep the snow was. There was a schematic that indicated where 20 feet was which is how deep the snow was that winter. She also mentioned that the museum was a bit disappointing to Tristan and my dad who knew the truth of the Donner Party (eating each other is the unvarnished truth). In fact there was no mention of the cannibalism in the museum but it sounded like both Tristan and more so my dad tried to incite the docent into admitting to what happened. I think I would have asked even more pointed questions along the lines of “human, white or dark meat?” But alas I guess in this day and age history gets re-written all the time. In fact in war, whomever wins definitely gets to write the history of battles how they see fit. It does sound like they all enjoyed the museum particularly since it was free and on the way from Squaw to Auburn.

The course here goes up and down with undulating hills. Sometimes we are close to the river and other times we are moderately high up. We are running parallel to the river and I recall that during the Memorial Day Weekend training run this section is very pretty although at various points there are sheer dropoffs alongside the trail. Luckily I am feeling pretty strong and am not overly worried about tripping. I try to describe the scenery to Iva, but I do not think I do it justice.

As we get to one of the aid stations I am having significant eye issues. My eyes are watering and it is creating some issues in my vision. I have had similar issues before but this time I am prepared with eye drops. Unfortunately I am not prepared with how to use eye drops. At the aid station I ask if a volunteer can get them in my eyes. I feel like a cat because I am squirming away from getting drops in my eyes even though I know this will help!

After attending to my eyes I get a few treats to eat and drank a little. My stomach is turning sour but I am sure I have gotten enough calories in me over the day to get to the finish without any worries.

We continue moving along slowly but steadily. Iva has a Garmin and my goal is to keep ahead of 17 min/miles at a minimum. I would prefer to go faster but my legs may be a limiting factor. Iva gives me good news indicating that we are moving along at a modest clip of about 15 min/mile. This means I am slowly inching my way ahead of the DNF line. But I don’t want to make any mistakes. I pay attention to my footing and keep up a conversation with Iva. Most of the time we are alone but sporadically we pass a runner or two. I am feeling pretty good and am so happy that I am in a segment I have run before and know that relatively speaking is not too hard.

Pretty soon we see the lights of Rucky Chucky. I am super excited because it means I get to sit down for a few moments. And of course I get a raft trip. I tried really hard to convince my pacers/crew to go on a raft ride (my treat) on Saturday and yet no one took me up on this offer. I love rafting so I have been looking forward to this all day. In fact I have been looking forward to it since learning that it was a high water year and we would be going across on a raft. This is going to be so fun!!!

As we arrive at the aid station I take a drink of ginger ale and a coke then move along. I know there is another aid station on the other side. And have I mentioned I am excited about the raft ride??!!

Leaving the aid station we are guided to a steep climb down to the river. It is lit up with luminaries and Christmas lights. It is beautiful and surreal. I take a moment to absorb it. Then I start my walk down this sheer cliff like path. But Western States takes such GREAT care of it’s runner I have no problem maneuvering down. As I step down a super sweet volunteer will take my hand and point to a place I should put my feet. They then hand me off to the next volunteer and upon confirmation many of these volunteers would give me a pat on the back, rubbed my shoulder or patted my head upon handoff wishing me luck and strength to finish the race. It was so wonderful.

All of the volunteers were so helpful, encouraging and so sweet. I wanted to savor the moment because it gave me such a warm feeling inside. Then all too soon I was being outfitted with a life jacket and handed off to the volunteers in the boat. I climbed in and sat down quickly followed by pacer Iva.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: Michigan Bluffs to Foresthill

I take off my hydration pack and give it to Tristan. I put on my super bright headlamp (*thanks to Jamie Donaldson and Meredith Terranova for this suggestion) and put on a few layers and tie some others to my waist. After refilling my bottle and munching a little bit it is time to get moving.

As I get ready to leave I hear a voice asking if anyone has a spare headlamp. In fact I had my beta headlamp on since Devils Thumb but have switched it out for my super strong headlamp. I yell that I have a spare headlamp. A volunteer comes over and takes it. She asks my number. I give it to her “271” but have no expectations of seeing it again. I have gotten used to giving away headlamps and clothing and never seeing them again. But oddly enough when I arrive home and unpack my bags, there is my headlamp with a small piece of paper and my bib number in my next drop bag. It is really cool to get it back but I wish the runner had also left his bib number on it so I could check on his status. I hope he finished!

I am super excited about heading out of this aid station because the faster I get through Michigan Bluffs, the sooner I will get to Bath Road where everyone can pace me for about a mile.

Iva and I head off into the darkness. I know the course and describe it to Iva. We have a long up hill with a really sharp left hand turn we need to pay attention for. I fixate on this because I don’t want any bonus miles and I am pretty sure that the DNF line would pass me if I did end up off course. We pay particular attention and finally the turn occurs. We then start heading into Volcano Canyon. This decline is pretty steep but I am able to walk and jog slowly. I know we need to keep moving forward with purpose.

Our conversation flows easily and covers many topics. I ask what happened about my SPOT rescue beacon. She indicates the race staff did not contact anyone, but Tristan was contacted by the SPOT personnel. When they ask him if I am okay he is unsure and thus they do send a rescue helicopter to help the injured safety patrol runner. Based on conversations at the aid station it became apparent to them that this rescue was needed and that it really helped the young lady as she was in bad shape and ill prepared for waiting for help. When I left my rescue beacon I vaguely thought about giving some clothing however, I realized that I could potentially need my layers if anything happened to me. And I assumed that they would have some more layers in their bags (this might have been a bad assumption but considering I had just given up my lifeline I was not ready to give up additional items that could be critical if I had to self rescue).

As the jeep road turns into single track we hear water running. I warn Iva that we are about to cross a stream. My feet are already wet and I am not very stable on my feet so I will be simply walking across. But Iva prefers to go across via rock hopping. I offer to cross then come partway back to give her a hand on the upper side where she can rock hop. She accepts and is successful at keeping at least one foot dry.

We then head up the single track and pretty soon we are on the Jeep Road. I know we only have a short bit and we get to Bath Road where we rejoin Bella, and Shane. And next thing I know there they are!

We walk up the hill (as any respectable back of the pack ultrarunner does). We chat about various topics and everyone is so nice and encouraging to me. I indicate that I want to change my shoes at Foresthill. I know I am behind the suggested 30 hour pace but I am closing in on 1 hour ahead of the absolute cutoff. I know shoe changes take 20-30 minutes but I justify that this will help my feet and me in general in the long run.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: Devils Thumb to Michigan Bluffs

So happy to be crossing the bridge over El Dorado Canyon. I had been on this bridge before when Tristan and I had hiked during the Memorial Day Weekend Training run (which I highly recommend to gave a sneak peak of the course, I met lots of other runners and it is a beautiful course much of which I covered in the darkness).

By this time I was starting to feel good about my race because I knew exactly what to expect for the remainder of the race. In my opinion knowledge is power. Especially when that knowledge allows you to know the course gets easier, not harder, as the miles increase.

As I get on the scale I am a little overweight. I believe I am about to get the talking to as well as possible sat out for a few minutes. But wait…I have my snake proof gaiters on. I know they weigh 2 lbs. I take them off and am back within specs. WAHOO! I ask the nice volunteers to put them in my drop bag since the sun is starting to get low on the horizon and I feel the rattlesnakes should be going to bed. I also grab my headlamp and put it on as well as a light shirt.

The volunteers as usual are really great and are super nice and helpful. But I want to get away from my air horn stalker. I grab some soup, get my hydration systems filled up and head off. As I exit I hear the single horn alerting runners to less than 10 minutes to the absolute cutoff. Yikes! Time to put some pep in my step.

Running out of the aid station I run with a gentleman for a bit of time. He is good company and suggests that the next section is runnable and the switchbacks to El Dorado Canyon are not too steep. This is comforting. At some point he pulls ahead because even with not too steep downhills I struggle.

The sun is starting to set slowly. But sporadically I end up in a place where there is still direct light. Although I have a long sleeve shirt on I realize that I should take it off so I don’t get overheated, sweat then get chilled. I am reminded of how many wardrobe changes I typically make in any race. I do spend a lot of time thermoregulating via wardrobe changes but I think this is sensible although it does waste a bit of time.

As I run I am getting a little worried. It is dusk and I am alone. This is when mountain lions eat. And they might like a moderately slow runner for dinner or a tasty snack. This is very alarming to me. But I have some defense but not all my defenses. I have pepper spray but I do not have my spot rescue beacon. Alas I have my super secret weapon: singing. I have done this before during other hikes. In fact Tristan and I were busting out with the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme song during a hike near Mt St Helens. And there we were a pair. Here I have to sing alone. I start with 99 bottles of bear on the wall. But I get a bit bored with this even with all the different versions I learned in girl scout and church camp (which in retrospect is kind of an odd place to learn this).

I then change my song to something more motivational. I start singing “Go the Distance” by Micheal Bolton. I think about how I wish I had hair as nice as he does. I also wish I knew the words. But I make do and mumble various words I do know and make up words I don’t know. But I know I can go the distance!

Starting to go down the switchbacks I am back to being content and happy. But not for long. As I jog I hear some rustling in the tree’s and bushes nearby. It is getting closer. I am very worried because that is when the majority of cougar attacks occur. I get out my pepper spray and unlock it for the second time that day. I am ready to start spraying and will ask questions later. Right before I let loose I realize it is another runner. I re-holster my pink pepper spray and tell the young lady she is lucky she did not get sprayed. I am not sure she appreciates how close she was to being the recipient of my hair trigger panic finger. In fact I was a little surprised that as she approached she did not at least mumble “passing”, “hello” or any other greeting. I always alert runners to my whereabouts because when you are in a zone it can be kind of alarming to have a runner next to you. And my strong fear of serial killers really makes this panicked feeling even worse!

She moves ahead of me slowly since we are on the downhill which is my weakness. But she might have been spooked by my statement about cougars (or maybe I picked up the pace for some company). As we get closer to the river I was getting really excited. We could hear the water and I knew as we got close to the base of El Dorado Canyon I knew the remainder of the course from the WS100 memorial training run. We turn a bend and I realize we are very close to where Tristan and I had a yummy picnic lunch. I take a picture and tell my friend about our meal of bread, fruit and cheese. It is a really nice memory. Then we get to the bridge.

On the bridge there are many volunteers. It is great to see people. This is my last aid station where I will be conceptually alone. It is after 8 already and that means when I get to Michigan Bluff I will be able to pick up my pacer Iva. The volunteers are super helpful and as usual attend to all my eating and hydration needs. I grab a few items, refill my bottle and very soon I am on my way. I want to get as far as I can in the light. I know there are a few segments that are a bit tricky and would prefer to get through them with as much light as possible.

Going up the mountain I pass my friend and wish her luck. Then I am moving swiftly power hiking. I am excited to be on trail which I am familiar with. I even jog a bit going up this hill. I am moving quickly because I know the DNF line is creeping up behind me. And I know each mile I move forward I have that much less distance alone. This makes me very excited. I know there are switchbacks then a segment we go down briefly, we cross a small stream then continue up for a bit on the single track. Then we get on a jeep road and pretty soon I will be at Michigan Bluffs. My excitement is building.

Pretty soon I run into folks indicating just a bit to the aid station, then I hear dogs barking, see some houses and make a sharp left turn. I am approaching Michigan Bluff. I am EXCITED. I get to the aid station, check in and immediately see Iva, Shane, Tristan and Bella. What a treat! Nearly my whole pacer/crew/family team is there.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Western States 100 Miler: Last Chance to Devils Thumb

On Swinging Bridge on my way to Devils Thumb.
This bridge had a very alarming sign on it indicating maximum one horse or 6 humans. I was ready to start yelling at people if there started to be more than 4 others on this bridge with me...

Apparently many runners will take a dip in this river to cool off on an access path right after crossing the river. As you can see by this time in the race I had put my moeben sleeves on and was alternately putting them on and rolling them down to stay a bit cooler.

Last Chance AS a small disaster occurred. Luckily it did not adversely affect me as much as it could. As I got to the aid station I was weighed in. While being weighed in there was a lot of confusion as they told me to get on the scale while simultaneously telling me to take off my hydration pack and fanny pack. This is where I learn my ensemble weighs 15 lbs as I get on the scale and it reads nearly 150 lbs. Yikes! Then I get my items off nearly having to put them on the ground. I think the look of horror on my face got a volunteer to take it (since I was the only person in this area I could get this kind of service). While standing there I ask for my drop bag. After confirming that my real weight of ~135 is close to my original weight I can move forward to the aid station. At the aid station I eat, drink and be merry. Everyone is super helpful and nice. But a disaster occurs. I am told that my drop bag is not there. Luckily I have not real goals for seeing my drop bag except maybe to resupply my M&M stash. So I say it is fine and continue munching.

As I exit the aid station I see my drop bag. But by this time I don’t really care and simply plan to get to the next aid station where I have a drop bag. But I do take a picture. Also I know I am now less than 20 minutes ahead of the DNF line. The DNF guy with the air horn is now stalking me!!! I keep seeing him at all the aid stations. He is now my arch nemesis!!

The course continues to be fairly runnable. I am feeling pretty good and the scenery is very lovely. I am having a great race except for the DNF line encroaching on my personal space! I know that I have a lot of energy and am feeling strong. But on the other hand I am nearly 1.5 hours behind the recommended 30 hour pace. I am just about 30 minutes ahead of the absolute cutoff and these are not numbers that brings any confidence in my ability to finish. But I vow to keep on moving until told or forced to do otherwise by race staff or my body.

Leaving Last Chance we go down a slow gentle decline. I jog along happily pondering my thoughts. I know I am getting closer and closer to the part of the course I am familiar with. I just need to climb up to Devils Thumb then head to El Dorado Canyon. But this is a lot easier said then done.

As I get to the base of the first canyon I am excited to see swinging bridge. I am alarmed by the sign on it that states “limited to one horse and rider of 6 runners” Trust me if there were 6 runners near me I might have had to bust out the pepper spray to enforce this rule. Alas there is only one other runner nearby. I ask if he will take my picture and he kindly does. We both head up the sheer cliff that is Devils Thumb. I am pretty excited because I am moving smartly and uphills are my strength. This hill is really no worse than Maryland Heights near West Virginia where I have spent many hours, miles and verticle feet climbing. This makes me feel good because the final canyons I will climb, El Dorado and Volcano Canyon I have already seen during the WS100 memorial day training run.

As I climb up I pass 5-10 runners. Some I pass very quickly and am worried about because we are all very close to the DNF line. Others I pass but remain close to me. At some point we get to a bit of clearing where you can see into the canyon. It is a beautiful view but it is also very alarming to me. We are very exposed and just a step or two to the left is a sheer cliff about 1000 feet deep. I stop abruptly. I am paralyzed by fear. I really, really, really hate heights. I am even more worried because at mile ~45 I am not very stable on my feet. I give myself a pep talk saying I have to move forward. I cannot go back because the last aid station will be closed. And I need to finish WS100. I cannot disappoint my friends, family, pacers, crew, pets, etc. I give myself a pep talk. My usual “you are strong, you can do this” does not cut it. I have to harness my inner Puffi. Puffi is our youngest cat who is not afraid of anything. I tell myself she would not let this challenge stop her and I should not let it stop me. Finally I get my courage up and just do it. I am so thrilled with this accomplishment but am worried I will have more of these sheer drops I need to do. But I have faced down this challenge so I savor my victory!

As I climb I hear something I have heard before but the other times it has been after I leave the aid station. This time I hear the Air Horn warning signal of three beeps and I am not at the aid station! This means I am now less than 30 minutes away from the DNF line. But I am getting excited as each time I see brief glimpses of what appears to be the top. And pretty soon there are random folks who are clearly not runners. This means we have to be close to the top. Yippee!!! As I get to the top I am excited to see some horses. I even take a moment to pet one. I need a bit of animal loving.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: Millers Defeat to Last Chance

Along this segment there were several warning signs. Most were related to mining rights. I felt a little alarmed that there might be a person coming out with a shotgun...and my tiny bottle of pepper spray would likely not do much good.

Luckily I moved quickly through this section and did not try my hand at mining in this segment!

In fact I did try to read the various warning signs because I figured they could warn of hazardous animals, unspent munitions, nuclear (or other toxic) waste which I would need to be on the look out for!

I go through Millers Defeat pretty quickly. I know the DNF line is very close to me. My friend Melanie H had sent me a tiny printout of the aid stations and 30 hour suggested pace as well as the absolute cutoff. I am within 30 minutes of the cutoff. This is quite disturbing, but I am hopeful I will be able to pick up the pace now that I do not have to worry about any more snow.

Knowing the aid station cutoff is very soon, while at this aid station I ask if anyone is going home after volunteering. I am not sure my question was well understood because I was just trying to alert my husband to my status. That I was running along and doing fine but my SPOT was elsewhere. In fact I was really hoping my husband might have the sense to realize since I was moving but my SPOT wasn’t that he could give me his bulkier and older SPOT. Unfortunately it sounded like the volunteer I spoke with was not going anywhere with internet or phone service. This bummed me out a bit. I just hoped my family/crew had been informed of my status. In fact not having my SPOT did suck a bit of energy from me. I was worried about various disasters befalling me. And since I would not be able to help myself I imagined it could take hours (or maybe up to a day as in my husband’s case) before I got help if something tragic happened. Time for another self pep talk!

The next miles were spent trying to move quickly and efficiently. Here we were on a jeep road that was pretty nice in my opinion. I could move solidly forward without having to worry too much about my footing. And we were in the woods so it was not too hot when running with purpose. The one highlight of this section was the “Mining Claimed” area that indicated the land was claimed. I found this rather amusing and was curious what kind of stuff was being mined. I also was curious where the mine was but clearly had no time to explore.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: Mosquito Ridge to Millers Defeat

With one of my ultra-running hero's: Tim Twietmeyer.

Tim is really nice and so encouraging to all. I met him first at the California International Marathon in December. Then I met him a second time at the WS100 mile lottery the next day (where I may or may not have made a spectacle of myself). Then I saw him at the WS100 training runs and throughout the race weekend.

Although he has won the race numerous times, run it even more times he is really down to earth, friendly and a genuinely great person (as so many affiliated with the WS100 race are!)

I actually saw Tim an additional time later on the course (about mile 96 but at that point I was being hunted down/chased by the DNF line)

Very quickly I arrive at the next aid station. In fact for a bit I feel like every hour or so I am arriving in aid stations which is good, but also means they kind of blend together in my mind. The aid station volunteers take really great care of me. I resupply my beverages and refill my bandana ice burritos. I am feeling really good and my race continues to go very well.

This section we have a 4 mile out and back loop then we will be rejoining the original course. This is exciting to me because I am vaguely familiar with the original course through reading and studying blogs and course descriptions. In fact Craig Thornley is definitely a WS100 icon and I tried very hard to memorize his descriptions of each section. Sadly this was of limited use until Millers Defeat!

Heading out of the aid station I am alone again. This is okay until I run by a fairly new DEER CARCASS!!!! Seriously, I have read others blogs, race reports and course information and no one mentions this. I seriously nearly end up walking (actually running back) to the aid station I just left. But I give myself another pep talk. And by the time I realize it is a deer carcass I am pretty close to passing it. My contacts really do not work very well which is kind of a good thing when you are about to see something horrifying! As I pass I actually have the sense to take a picture but it is from behind and I am moving pretty quickly. In my other hand I have my pepper spray out and unlocked! I am ready to take on any beast that might be about to supplement it’s deer meal with a person dessert! But I was not going down without a fight…or without seasoning myself:-)

This section was more fire road so I was able to run with a bit of speed. I ran with Antoinnette for a little bit. She was very festive with her rabbit ears and was moving along solidly. Sadly as was the case throughout the day my pace did not match hers as I moved along.

At the end of this loop the RD suggested we would travel the “roughest” section of the race. This actually is too kind a definition of what we ran through. I was really glad for my snake proof gaiters as I scampered over tree’s and branches. I know the RD and the volunteers had to work really hard considering the issues with the course and they are to be commended! But I still struggled here. I was extra cautious because I did not want to fall. Then the final section of this “rough section” was a snow slope which I nearly took a header. Alas at the last second I was able to regain my balance as I slammed into the jeep road at the bottom.

The jeep road return to Millers Defeat kept having small snow sections of a few hundred meters followed by dirt. I was glad to be getting to the end of the snow pack but found this almost harder than the original snow because at each of the section breaks you had to cautiously get on or off the snow. Or at least I should say I had to…others seem to run recklessly through the snow but I tend to be very hesitant and really did not want to mangle myself.

Heading into Millers Defeat I was very excited. I was about to get back on the WS100 course. And reportedly there was no more snow. WAHOO!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: Duncan Canyon to Mosquito Ridge

Along the race course near the Lake we ran alongside for several miles. It was a very beautiful blue lake that had lovely snow capped mountains in the background.

We never got too close to the edge of the lake although at several points we had to cross over (through) streams.

The trail along the perimeter of the lake was very nice with very few roots or rocks so it was easy on the feet and there were not very many tripping hazards.

Just a few minutes later and one final switchback up the hill I make it to the Duncan Canyon Aid Station. The aid station is really active and lots of fun. The volunteers take great care of me helping me fill all my hydration pack with ice water and my bottle with sports drink as well as filling my bandana with ice so I can wrap it around my neck to keep cool. Everyone is so cheerful and helpful. I loiter a bit, chat with the volunteers and again get scolded to get out of the aid station.

Jogging out of the aid station I am feeling great. My WS100 experience is amazing so far. It is exceeding my expectations!

The current course continues its diversion on the “2011 snow route”. We go into Duncan Canyon then head up to Mosquito Ridge. As I am running into the canyon we have a small section on snow then abruptly get onto a road. I am thrilled to see road. I have had enough snow for many, many years to come and I actually do like running on road since it is fairly brainless (so far I have not fallen on road, trails I fall a lot!).

As I running down the hill, safety patrol catches up to me. They are very nice and even take my picture as I run along. We chat for a while. Their job is to make sure runners are doing well. Sadly I am doing well so after a bit they head off. I try to suggest that I am not coherent and that they kind of owe me an escort since I did give up my SPOT rescue beacon which was supposed to be my chaperone. Apparently this does not convince them to stick with me. Nor does my exciting conversation and company. As they head off, they remind me that the DNF line is approaching but suggest that I am moving solidly and just need to keep running strong.

In the canyon we run along a river for a bit. I love rivers and the sound of running water. I am in my happy place. The views continue to be very pretty and I am just having so much fun. I try not to stress about my lack of SPOT and try to remind myself that statistically I am unlikely to experience death and disaster.

Hiking up the hill I am bummed when we get off the road onto a fireroad. At least it is not single track. As I run along I am all alone. Along the road you could see about ½ mile ahead and behind at various points and there are no runners in my field of vision. But as I run on the dirt road I am surprised to catch up to my friend Don. Not surprisingly he passed me at the Aid Station. We catch up a bit and jog for a bit together. Again, my pace is slightly faster so we ultimately separate. A little bit later I catch up to my friend Jose SG. He really struggled in the snow (in fact at one point I asked him what shoes he was wearing…so I could NEVER buy them!). He is starting to struggle in the heat but is moving forward. He has a lot of experience in 100’s so I am optimistic for him.

As I continue running I am back to being alone. This is actually how the rest of my day seems to progress. Sporadically I see runners in the aid stations but overall I am alone. I did not know if headphones are allowed so I did not carry any. But regardless I would not have put them on because I want to make sure I can hear the rattlesnake, bear, cougar, marmot, lizard or whatever other animal might be about to attack me!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Western States 100 Mile: Poppy Aid Station to Duncan Canyon

With my personal assistant: Vicki who took GREAT care of me during my visit to the Poppy Aid Station.

She was so sweet and helpful. She made sure to help me with my sock change (which is very labor intensive and kind of smelly) and attended to my every need.

After the race I was so lucky to run into Vicky again at the post race buffet where again she took excellent care of me.

She was an AMAZING volunteer and so kind!

After leaving the Poppy Aid Station we quickly ran along a beautiful mountain lake for about 5-7 miles.

The course was really lovely and the views spectacular. Around each bend you could see the blue/green lake flanked by the snowy mountains.

The views were just breathtaking and it was such a treat to be able to run alongside this picture perfect lake on such a beautiful day.

Pretty soon we arrive at the Poppy Aid station where our first drop bag is located. Here I make my first mistake of the day. But luckily it is a fairly small one and easily rectified. Because the race director during the pre-race briefing suggested we change our socks, I do so. In retrospect I would not have done this. But alas having a really good friend, Ethel (who was a GREAT pacer at the ICY-8 hour in 2010 helping me get my first 2nd place female), who ended up with massive feet issues from her attempt at WS100, I do the conservative thing and change my shoes.

My personal assistant, Vicki (who is WONDERFUL) gets my bag, helps me in getting off my nasty wet socks and putting on a new pair as well as a new pair of gaiters (you might as well change everything is my philosophy). Changing my socks also involves cleaning my feet rather thoroughly with wet wipes. By the time I have wiped them off you can eat off my feet (not that I ever would, but I am a bit fastidious about my feet). After getting on my socks and gaiters, I also put on my pair of Zensah calf sleeves so I can put on my snake proof gaiters. When putting on one of my calf sleeves somehow it is upside down…or at least looks that way. In fact when I take it off, put it back on it then is really upside down. Then I have to take it off one last time to put it on rightside up. So for those of you keeping count this sleeve has now been on and off 3 times! Finally it is on right. I then hook up my snake proof gaiters (these I do know how to put on although it was only during a practice run I realize that there is definitely a right and left foot). After attending to my feet situation it is time to put on some sunscreen. This takes a bit of time because I know I need to apply at least a shot glass worths of sunscreen and I really do not want to miss any place. Although I had applied sunscreen before I started I do really try to take care of my dermatological needs. I also try to take care of my oral hygiene but as you will learn later from mid-afternoon until the finish I was fighting the DNF line rather than gingivitis!

Grabbing a grilled cheese sandwich, some brownies, a payday bar as well as resupplying both my fanny pack bottle and my hydration pack I am ready to leave the aid station. In fact the volunteers are starting to really encourage me to leave as they (and I) know the DNF line is starting to creep up on me! Alas attending to needs can be an important race strategy and I am sure that I will be able to make up time with my freshly clean/dry feet as well as with the confidence my snake proof gaiters will give me and finally with a full belly of food and drink!

The next section of course is by far the prettiest in my opinion. The course follows along a beautiful lake and it is a fairly runnable section. Don and I continue to run together chatting about ultra’s. the ultra community and life in general. He is good company and I am glad to have a person to run along with. Even when we are running in silence it is nice to have some company. We sporadically stop to appreciate the views and to take pictures. The lake is a beautiful green with snow capped mountains behind it. We are in a lush pine forest with lots of wildflowers. We sometimes are a few hundred feet from the lakeshore and other times we climb a bit higher. We have a few stream crossings including one very soon after we got out of the aid station, aargh! Alas I am glad I made sure my feet were in good condition and it was nice to chat with Vicki while she was taking excellent care of me!

After running along the lake, Don and I start separating. My pace is a bit too brisk for him. This is sad because he is such great company but we both know that it is also important to run your own race particularly in the 50 and 100 mile distance. I am super pleased to have spent so many miles with him and know the early miles will be some of my favorite because of his company.

Running along we head up a fairly steep hill. The sun is getting bright and warm. And there seems to be residual burn from I would guess the late 90’s or early 2000’s. The tree’s do not provide as much shade but luckily it is not too hot and is not predicted to get super hot. I would guess at the hottest it might have been 90 degree’s but there does seem to be a pleasant breeze now and again. We really lucked out with delightful weather!

Reaching the top of this long hill climb I see my friend Keith Blom. He took some super pictures of my lottery selection (when I basically blew a gasket and forgot to photodocument the whole experience). But luckily Keith snapped pictures as I realized my name had popped up on the screen. It was an amazing experience! We subsequently ran into each other at the Across the Years and then he was one of the “Media”/official photographers of WS100. It was great to see him and briefly say hello!

Western States 100 Miler: Talbot to Poppy Aid Station

Picture: Me along the course between the Talbot Aid Station and Poppy Aid Station.

Notice that there are plenty of rocks, not very dense pine tree's and a dirt path. This is how the majority of this section looked. It was very beautiful but very different than the first ~15 miles which was snow covered.

This section had both up and downhills but no significant climbs or descents. Additionally, the footing was pretty good including a large portion of jeep road. My impression of the jeep roads is that there were bits of rocks but none seemed to be ankle twisters. And while the course might have been a bit dusty I believe my gaiters did the trick of keeping this out of my shoes and off my feet.

This is the first time I have seen people who might have contact with the outside world. I ask where the Ham Radio operators are. I am pointed to the exit. I go over and chat with them and confirm that my husband has been alerted that I am not sending out an SOS but have given my SPOT rescue beacon to others needing it.

I am assured my family has been contacted.

This is not the case but I do not find this out until Michigan Bluff. Luckily my friends and family can see that I am progressing along the course. This actually distresses me when I learn that a message was never conveyed to Tristan or my crew. I am sure glad they did not follow the helicopter to the hospital it went to because at that point I would have been a bit stranded and very puzzled as to where my people disappeared to. But then again from Tristan’s fall last year on Mt Theilsen they should have known not to immediately head to the hospital where one is medivacced but wait until the final destination is determined (when Tristan fell and was ultimately medivacced, I was told he was going to Portland Health Center. Luckily I hunkered down and waited and in fact he was only transported to St Charles Medical Center in Bend a few hundred miles away, I think I would have been horrified if I arrived at a hospital after a cross country flight only to learn I had another 3-5 hour drive to get to him). But I digress.

Don and I head out of the aid station together. We are pretty well matched for pace. And he is great company keeping a very easy conversation going. I learn his training has been really good. He broke 24 hours for a 100 miles at an event in the winter. I am still trying to do this, although I think without a bad knee issue at Umstead I might have broken it in April. Alas that was a learning experience when I learned my standard training of being conservative and not pushing to hard worked for me at least. For my first 6 years of ultra-running I never had an issue. Starting last fall when I started pushing really hard I have gotten shin splints and a bad knee tendonitis that took over 2 months to recover from including 1 month of intense physical therapy.

Running along I am thrilled that my knee is not acting up. I am feeling strong, enjoying the views and having a great time. It is so beautiful in the high country. How lucky are the runners to be able to do something we love so much on such a lovely day! We could not ask for more perfect weather. It is a beautiful blue sky and the scenery is spectacular!

Since I may be the better trail runner of the two of us, I end up being the pace setter for Don and I. This is fine with me because then I can go faster or slower as the terrain changes. Don is agreeable to this strategy. He is good company and lots of fun to run with. As we run along we both appreciate the beautiful views we are being given. Although I know I will be skirting the DNF line (based on other races and the fact that the snow has really slowed me down), I still take the time to stop occasionally to look around. We are so lucky to be so fortunate to run this race on such a beautiful day. There is no other place I would rather be! I will think this over and over throughout the race.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Western States 100 Mile Race Report: Interrupted for Vermont 100 miler

I apologize that I am leaving you my readers hanging...but my kind of lame excuse is that I am getting prepared for my 4th Vermont 100 miler.

This is the second stage of my Grand Slam 100 miler attempt. The 4 hundred milers in the Grand Slam include:

Western States 100 miler, California
Vermont 100 miler, Vermont
Leadville 100 miler, Colorado
Wasatch 100 miler, Utah (CONDITIONAL assuming I finish the prior 3)

If you want to wish me some luck feel free to text me at:

(804) 310-8745

I will have my cell phone on me. Service will be sketchy but I know on a few ridges it actually is pretty good:-)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Western States 100 mile: Escarpment to Talbot Aid Station

Running up Emigrant Pass I found a super nice lady who was willing to run alongside me snapping many pictures.

The course was really beautiful but snow covered for the vast majority of the first 15 miles or so.

It was challenging to run on and I know many runners including myself struggled to stay on their feet.

But the course was very lovely and we were so lucky to have perfect weather including a very sunny blue sky, and delightful temperatures.

What you will notice here is my full outfit including gloves, pants and of course sparkely my fanny pack, my flower hat as well as lots of random stuff.

Here is one of the many river crossings we had to do.

This picture includes my friend Don who ran many of the first sections with me. He was excellent company and a seasoned ultramarathoner with many 100 miler completions.

This river was one of the larger ones and in fact had a rope to assist runners in the crossing.

As you can see there is snow right along the side of the stream. I would guess the temperature of the water was just above freezing. By the end of the river crossing my feet and lower legs (from thigh below) were numb from the cold.

As you can see by this time I had taken off my long sleeve shirt and jacket so the day was warming up. So I did thaw out pretty quickly.

Climbing Escarpment (continued)

As we continue on, we are on a snow slope that is not too steep. Others seem out of breath but I am happy that alttitude or hills are not really impacting me greatly. I continuing moving at a modest clip. Along the slope I am able to get a very nice young lady to get my picture. She even gets a few action shots which is nice. The final climb to Emigrant Pass is a bit treacherous. But I make it. I am thrilled to be at the top of the pass. I will only be going downhill from here. But alas going downhills is my weakness. I go really slowly, get nervous and would actually go many, many, many extra miles to avoid downhill. Alas the WS100 course is a net downhill.

Near Watson Monument at the top of the pass I find another spectator to take my picture. I know I may be wasting valuable time but I rationalize that this is giving me a break, giving me some joy and I need to savor and document my experience. It is really beautiful with snow covered mountains all around.

After Emigrant Pass

The first few hundred meters down the mountain I am excited to see no snow. We are on a dirt/rock trail with stubby bushes and wildflowers. It is very pretty. Unfortunately after about a half mile or so we get onto the snow. We will not get off the snow for nearly 10 miles. (ten miserable miles in my world!). I am glad I invested in a pair of trail shoes when I visited my friend Jamie. My new pink trail shoes (which I have only run in 2 times for less than 25 miles!) are very comfortable and grip pretty well. It does seem that others are sliding quite a bit more than I. But I also am taking this section very, very slowly because I really do not want to fall! In fact every so often we get to a fairly steep area in which it is obvious others have fallen. I sit down and slide on my but. Finally my overdressing pays of!!! My pants protect my butt from the snow. Others are mentioning the burn and snow up their shorts. But I am having a blast each time I sit down and slide. Next time I think I might pack a bag but in all honesty the pants work out very well. My gloves also were a wise decision although with the bitten finger and the fact that they are not even remotely waterproof make them a little soggy. But the weather is very pleasant and it is not too bad the few moments they are wet and cold.

I run with a pack of runners during this segment. My friends from other races: Jose SG and Wilson L are really close to me. Chris (aka the guy who will be writing a book about a serial killer ultrarunner!) who I met at the WS100 memorial day training weekend is in this pack. Shannon FG from moeben is in this same group. And I get to meet several new runners. Don from Atlanta ends up being closest to my pace and we end up running very closely for the first ~30 miles. He is really good company and has done a bunch of ultra’s.

Pretty soon disaster occurs.

Running along in the snow, slipping and sliding I am really anxious about falling. I see others falling and I sort of stumble a bunch of times. As I round a bend there is a group of three runners with red shirts on. One is down obviously in a lot of pain. The other two are looking concerned. It is safety patrol. They do not seem to have any rescue equipment and I do not believe a cell phone. I realize I may be the only one who has any way to get help quick. And people mock me for my carrying of excessive stuff. I can say that I will not starve or be too thirsty for several days or even be very cold or wet if I ever go off course in an ultra. That 15 lbs I carry includes lots of useful stuff!

After determining that this lady’s ankle is in really bad shape and there is no way she is getting off the snow slope without assistance, I set off my SPOT rescue beacon. Now I am in a quandary. If I keep going the pinging will follow me (and will actually probably make it so they do not send help since clearly I would be mobile).

I now have to give up my lifeline. I am really hesistant. I really do not want to die on the course and I know there will be more snow slopes, lots of sheer cliffs and of course potentially rattlesnakes, cougars, bears and other animals ready to make me a happy meal! I hand off my rescue beacon, wish the lady luck and ask them to get this back to me ASAP. I am optimistic “SPOT” will catch up to me mid-afternoon. In fact they take down my number wrong and never alert my family that I am okay. But the SPOT rescue beacon folks do alert my family. This actually creates some confusion because when the SPOT folks call my husband (who is on my emergency call list) he is unsure about my whereabouts but suggests they should rescue me. He should have stated unequivocally, “GO GET MY WIFE SHE’S IN TROUBLE!!!” He has been reprimanded.

They apparently do send a helicopter to rescue the lady. In fact I think I heard it as we were running along a while later. I kept my fingers crossed she was okay and hoped that this gesture of goodwill gets me some good karma (both in not dying but also in finishing the race:-).

This episode takes about 10 minutes. Finally I bid farewell to the safety patrol and am back to running. This time I am running scared. One should never run scared. But it makes me really cautious.

I also realize my friends who are following my SPOT tracking will have no idea what has happened to me. All they will notice is that I was moving along, then I abruptly stopped and sent out an “SOS”. In fact in my gmail account after the race I get pinged with a bunch of SOS please send help. I am not sure why I put my gmail on my contact list. If I need help I don’t think I will be able to access gmail to see that I need help, duh!

Running along, I catch up to my friend Don. He and I seem to have a very similar pace (particularly on the snow). He is good company and helps makes the miles flow by. We chat about ultra’s, life in general and how tough the snow is. Sporadically we have to stop and look very hard for the yellow flags and ribbons. This actually becomes very challenging and we end up forming a cluster of about 8 runners as we all struggle to find the course. Jose, Wilson, Brian, Shannon, Don and several others end up in a pack for a while. We sort of randomly have runners lead or follow looking for the yellow trail markings. They are hard to spot since the glare of the snow and the yellow ribbons and flags seem to blend together. This gets to be very tedious and slow going. Unfortunately knowing how easy it is to get off course I refuse to follow footprints but only go where I can see yellow ribbons. I really do not want bonus miles. I already did that at the training run going straight up a hill I had to promptly go down when I realized I had missed my turn!

As we ran along there sporadically was chatter but a lot of energy was spent paying close attention to the course markings as well as our footings. I think most of us fell several times, stumbled and slipped around. And we had to be cautious of tree wells where you could see the snow was up to 20 feet deep. And occasionally you could hear a river of water under the snow so you had to be careful to not step in the wrong place and fall into tunnel of water. It was very disconcerting.

The course slowly descends but the snow does not seem to go away. During the pre-race briefing it was suggested with the recent heat wave the snow might be patchy in sections. I have not seen terra firma for many miles except for small few feet patches (which I get really excited about only to realize the brief respite is just that…very brief!).

As the trail descends our pack seems to disband and I am back to running with Don. We get to a stream crossing and see my friend Chris finish crossing it. It is actually a bit deep (thigh high) and moderately long (about 50 –75 feet). And the water is REALLY cold (although it does take me a few moments to gather my courage to get in to start crossing). Before spring 2011 I had never purposely gotten my feet wet crossing a stream or river. But upon realizing I was going to do WS100 with multiple stream crossings I started my stream crossing ways back in March while a trail sweep for the Seneca Greenway 50km race. I was pretty proud of myself because I have really matured as a runner and have refused to let perceived challenges stop me. Partway through the stream I get my camera and take a few pictures of Don and I. This is a bit tricky as we have a rope we are holding onto. I in fact am using a death grip on it holding on for dear life. This means during each picture I am standing thigh deep in freezing cold water. It takes my breath away! But alas it also chills my knees and ankles which are a bit bothersome from the snow running (actually each time I fell on the snow I also rationalized that I was pre-icing from any injury I might get!). Finally I get to the other side. I can barely feel my feet. The water was really cold!!!

Jogging along my feet and legs seem to thaw out. I wonder how many more stream crossings we will do. A few minutes later we have another stream but this one is only about 10 feet wide. But getting to the stream is a bit more treacherous with a very steep slope going into it. I am glad in my hydration pack I have a pair of pants and a jacket I can change into if my stream crossing goes horribly awry! But I do successfully get into the stream and cross it. I am feeling pretty happy that so far no obstacle has been insurmountable.

I know from my Garmin we have traveled well over 10 miles and should be getting close to the first aid station. I am excited just to have a moment or two off the snow. And of course I am looking forward to some treats. Because I have a 20 oz bottle and a 100 oz hydration pack I am very well set for beverages and I do have treats in my pockets. But aid stations have so much energy.

Soon we are entering the Talbot Aid Station, WAHOO! As with all the aid stations, the volunteers take great care of us making sure we are well hydrated and fed and ensure all our needs are met. I am getting excited because I know we have only a few more miles of snow to run along. I was definitely over snow-running after about 1 step!