2018 Western States 100

Well, you know what my dad always said, ‘Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.'”  –Rudy (1993)

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. A wild childhood of rippin’-n-tearin’ around my neighborhood, either on foot, or on my bike, paved the way for a lifetime of adventure. I’m happiest when I moving. I’m an athlete today, and I’ll still be an athlete thirty years from now. To quote Dr. George Sheehan, “Running is my self-renewing compulsion.” We’re made to move. Daniel E. Lieberman, a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University says we evolved to move over vast distances, in pursuit of prey. With a superior cooling, i.e., sweat, system as compared to other mammals, homo sapiens evolved to be the ultimate endurance creature. So cool. Still, modernity makes it tough to take Emerson’s advice, “First, be a good animal.” Eat well, sleep well, and exercise. Knowing and doing are often two very separate things. “Compared with what we ought to be,” wrote Henry James, “we are only half awake.”

Running and racing, then, gives us a context to want to become fully awake. To be the best animal we can be; to get out there, moving gracefully over uneven terrain with both speed and power. In a race, we get to experience something so primal—the thrill of the hunt, juxtaposed with the the terror of being chased down by a predator. Running also represents a temporary escape from the confines of modernity; it’s freedom; if only for an hour a day. Indeed, if you run, you know that the compulsion—although an investment in both time and energy—allows us to live at the top of our powers, allowing us to give more of ourselves to our work and others. I like to say it’s the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. “Running may not add years to your life,” wrote Sheehan, “but it will add life to your years.”

I’ve had dreams my entire life. Many dreams have come to pass and some haven’t. But like Pete said in the movie, Rudy, “Having dreams is what makes life tolerable,” and more interesting for that matter. When pursued in earnest, they put us in situations that are inevitably uncomfortable. When there’s struggle; there’s change; there’s learning. And, there’s growth. It’s not linear though. Success in running is messy stuff. It’s full of ups and downs. Preparation. After narrowly earning my golden ticket into the Western States 100 at Georgia Death Race (GDR) on March 31st (race-report), I took a couple weeks off, let a cranky rib and ankle heal up, and volunteered again at Lake Sonoma 50. From there I jumped back into training mode. GDR had given me a nice template to build upon for “States.” The trick, as it always is for an A-priority event, is getting as fit as you possibly can but without getting injured. And that’s no easy task, when your dream is going Top-10 at 44 years young. 

My longest outing for GDR had been a successful 50mi training run at Lake Sonoma, with 10,000’+ of gain; roughly the same elevation change per mile as Western States itself. I’d done this same run four weeks out from GDR and found, in that race, I could keep going to the well late in the going, so I was excited to try and duplicate this fitness for States. Instead of doing it four weeks out though, I thought it wise to play it a bit more conservative, and do this monster training effort five weeks out from Western States (the log below shows my training block). This was my best 100mi prep yet while working full-time as a teacher and part-time as a running coach. Week after week, I’d grind it out and was happy with the culminating performance. Based on this work and all the discipline that went into it, I figured I deserved to have a strong race. Five weeks to go…

June hit and I was pretty shelled from the training but also concluding what was my most challenging year as a teacher. To a fair degree, I was emotionally drained. But, I still had plenty of time to bounce back! Volume was dramatically reduced and I did a few sharpening sessions. Every day a trip to the sauna to prep for the heat at States. Every evening an AltoLab session to prep for the elevation in the high country. On June 10th, I had a great run at Hood Mountain in Santa Rosa, 14mi with 4000′ of gain. It felt a little too great. In the back of my mind I remember thinking, “you’re peaking too early.” Perhaps, perhaps not. “It’s better to come in 10% under-trained,” as the saying goes, “than 1% over-trained.” The fear of failing to get to the start line healthy, having earned a golden ticket into the race, still weighed heavy on my mind. Come hell or high water, I’ll arrive to the start line fresh!

The Race. Fresh indeed. The morning of the race I was pretty chill. We had a vacation rental in Tahoma and made the 30min pilgrimage to the start-line in Squaw Valley. Two years had gone by since I’d last toed the line. What even happened in that race? It was a new day. A new opportunity. Let’s see what it has in store for me. 5am: Go-time!

I didn’t feel bad ascending to Watson’s Monument at almost 9000′. As with GDR, I again chose to not wear a watch and just go off feel. I would hold back to the degree necessary to keep my breathing and heart-rate in check, “preserve the future,” and run as steady and controlled as I could.

The early miles. “Everybody’s fast when it’s easy.” — Photo Credit: Facchino Photography.

It was great rolling through Lyon Ridge at mile 10 and seeing everyone from Tahoe Mountain Milers, the fine folks that put on Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs. Then it’s over to Red Star Ridge where I dropped my arm-warmers and grabbed some more nutrition.

High country running. Followed by Chris Brown, Kyle Pietari, “CTS(?),” and Michael Owen, I believe. — Photo Credit: Facchino Photography (???)

At Duncan Canyon (and at least one other aid-station), I was psyched to get crewed by the pros—Paul and Meredith Terranova. I’m on HOKA ONE ONE with Paul and we’ve raced each other quite a few times over the years so we’re all friends. Frustratingly, Paul had to bow out of Western States the day before the race due to stress fracture in his femur. Crazy, right?! The silver [buckle] lining was that his spot went to a runner on the waitlist, Sean O’Connor, who despite getting in just one day before, ended up going 22:55:49. Amazing!

Sean O’Connor and Paul Terranova. Sean (and his fitness) made the trip out from NJ, hoping he’d get off the waitlist. PS: I like those HOKA Slides, brother!

On the way to Robinson Flat, at mile 30, the plan was to take in a couple GU Stroopwafels, a few GU gels, and a sleeve of GU Chews. I started with a water-only bottle and would bring a second bottle into play at Robinson, one with Roctane “Summit Tea” energy drink. Also at Robinson, I’d grab my BUFF cooling sleeves and my ice-bandana. This seemed like a good plan. I wanted to lay down a foundation of calories early, while I was fresh and the belly was happy. Going with water-only and all de-caffeinated GU products for the first 30 seemed like the smart play since I wanted to delay the use of caffeine until later when it would pack a bigger punch, but I also wanted to be nice to my body—my stomach in particular—and not get to Robinson, already jacked up on Roctane and possibly be pushing too hard too early.

Cruising in the high country. — Photo Credit: Facchino Photography

I wanted to enjoy running in the high country more than I was. There was no point in my run on June 23rd where I was feeling like the running was light and easy. It felt too much like work and I kept backing off the intensity to the degree that would keep my breathing in check. Perennial top-10er, Ian Sharman, was already up ahead and out of sight. My masters compadres, Jeff Browning and Jesse Haynes, were in front of me as well. Jesse was only a minute or two up on the way over to Robinson and I continued to get glimpses of him all morning. I was already on the back of the lead bus but still running my own race. Given the work in the bank, I should be able to bridge up later. Just stay positive. “Feed the good wolf.”

Smile for the camera. — Photo Credit: Let’s Wander Photography

At Robinson I was grateful to see my crew for the first time and soak in the energy from all the people there. It’s just amazing. It was warming up and was sure to get my cooling sleeves and bandana on. I took off from the aid-station and soon realized I was missing a bottle. Whoops. I’d grabbed my Roctane bottle but forgot my water-only bottle. I needed both! I jogged back and quickly snagged it from my crew. I lost a minute. No big deal. Good wolf…

Robinson Flat with Louis Secreto. — Photo Credit: Let’s Wander Photography

Robinson Flat, mile 30, with Amanda. — Photo Credit: Let’s Wander Photography

After Robinson, I chatted for a bit with my buddy, Luke Garten, who was out spectating on his mountain bike. I was cruising but still feeling kind of shitty in the high country. Later on, I caught up to Chris Brown (eventual M10) and joked about how much oxygen there was “down here,” since we’d finally descended a few thousand feet. After the race, Chris shared with me that this was a tough patch for him and he just kept me in sight through Miller’s Defeat, Dusty Corners, and Last Chance aid-stations. I can’t remember where he got in front of me, but from what I knew of Chris going into the race, I had a hunch he was going to be competitive late in the going. Look for him to move up in the overall next year!

Back on familiar ground. Going up… #Canyons_100k

After Last Chance, you dive down another 1000′ to Swinging Bridge, which is the first turn-around for The Canyons 100k, an event I’ve done twice, though not this year. Mentally, for me, this is a big milestone inside Western States, since I’m back in more familiar territory, on trails where I’ve historically run well. Mo-jo! Before starting the ascent up Devil’s Thumbs, I submersed myself in the stream at the bottom and just laid there, calm for 10-15 seconds. I remember this moment so clearly. The cool water felt fantastic. So much was still in front of me. Anything was possible.

Step into the ring, to take another swing. Feeling good coming up Devil’s Thumb.

In both my Western States experiences, I’ve really enjoyed climbing up “The Thumb.” I eventually reeled in women’s leader, Lucy Bartholomew, who went out hot in the early going and the effort seemed to be catching up with her. “Once we’re up on top,” I said, “we have some fun-running after that.” To which she replied, “But it’s all downhill…” She’d catch up with me again, at the bottom of Bath Road, before the Foresthill aid-station, so would a few other runners, like Courtney Dauwaulter, and Zach Bitter, who gave me a quick shout-out. While I was splashing around in the water, they were all streaming by, sites set on cresting Bath Rd. enroute to crashing the party in Foresthill.

My pacer, Louis Secreto, met me climbing up Bath and hands me a cold La Croix. It tastes awesome. The carbonation’s refreshing. I’m in good spirits. Once we’re up top, running down the road to the aid-station, I ask him the time of day. I’m about 45min back from where I was coming through the same point in 2016. I remember being a little disappointed with that but I also knew the wheels had come off on the way down to the river in that race, so I felt confident that since I’d run so much more conservatively this time around, I’d surely be running well, late in the going, this time around.

We cruised through the aid-station then down to where my crew was, where I received the full-service treatment—fresh bottles topped off with ice, a fresh ice-bandana, ice in my arm-sleeves, and cold water on my head, neck and torso. Ready. To. Go.

A hundred yards down Cal Street, I ran through the tunnel of Healdsburg Running Company folks out cheering on all the runners. “Okay, Let’s do this.” Take-#2 from two years ago. “This is gonna be a tough section down to the Rucky Chucky at 78,” I thought to myself, “but you’re gonna manage yourself better this time, get across the river, put on some lighter, faster shoes, and motor it on in.

Rolling through Foresthill, mile 62. In sync with pacer, Louis Secreto. — Photo credit: Bob MacGillivray, Drymax Socks

The Fizzle Reel. I definitely felt better getting down to Cal 1 than I did in 2016. Louis and I are communicating and we’re dialed in, just running aid-station to aid-station. Steady. No surging. I’m drinking iced-down Roctane while using my water-only bottle to pour on my arm-sleeves, face, and neck. I take some sips from the water-only bottle as well. I’m still taking a salt tab after every aid-station.

We roll through Cal 2, where Eric Senseman’s sitting in chair, looking like a prize-fighter 8 rounds deep. “Carnage,” I’m thinking. “I definitely don’t wan’t any of that action.” We’re clear of Cal 2, running along, when Karl, “The Speedgoat,” Meltzer goes bounding by and says “Keep it up! We’re almost home.” Speedgoat’s a competitive dude and this is the second time in the last year I’ve had the honor of racing him in a 100-miler. I’m patient though and let him go. He was running the downhills better than I was. Later, I’d start to catch back up on the climbs. After Cal 3, we moved by him. I thought, for good.

Lucy was still up ahead. She’d wisely taken more time in Foresthill. She’d gone by us with pacer, Sally McCrae. When I was feeling good we’d inch back up to her. I told Louis, we’d just hang out and not pass them since they’d probably pass us back. Let’s get beyond the river before we start thinking about getting in the passing lane. Stephanie Howe Violett goes cruising by. “Well,” I remember thinking, “The ladies are really crushing it today.”

About a mile out from Rucky Chucky aid at mile 78, we’re finally next to the river and I stop and throw up. It’s all liquid—always a pleasant vomiting experience! I’m thinking, “Wow, that kinda came outta nowhere, but no worries, I’ll “puke-n-rally” and get back to it. I felt like this was good timing—just about to the river. I’d simply reset, get across and still have about an hour and a half of daylight running to go. I was justifiably optimistic, given my experience with the puke-n-rally “method.” I resume taking little sips off my bottles. The sun though… Ugh… It felt like kryptonite on Superman. Soon I had to stop and bomb again. Uh-oh...

Arrival at Rucky Chucky aid-station, aka: “The River.” Mile 78. Check-Engine light’s ON.

I made it to the damn river… I’m still committed to my race-plan, but the 16 miles on Cal St. have shredded me like parmesan cheese on a grater. I’m more depleted than I should be. I just need to reset. I’ve been here before…

Wretch Fest 2018. W.T.F. — Photo Credit: Swiss Ultra Trail

Beware the chair. Louis is running around getting stuff for me. So is Amanda. Medical folks check in with me. I’m sucking pretty bad. I try to take in some water, saltines, and the like, only to puke everything back up and dry-heave all over again. Things aren’t improving. After an hour or so, the cot’s looking increasingly appealing. Runner’s are catching up, moving through the aid-station, and the sun slowly sets. Amanda’s wrapped me up in blankets on the cot. From the outside looking in, it looks pretty hopeless. But sitting there, in my head, I go to the cookie jar…

In my first 100 miler at Tahoe Rim Trail in 2009, I pushed the pace on the front with Erik Skaden until my belly stopped processing at about mile 50 and I started puking. By 67, I was a worthless pile of shit. The crew at Tunnel Creek nursed me back to life, then coached me back onto the damn trail. Later, I’d come bounding back through the same aid-station, charging forth to an eventual 6th place finish in 22:44, even after the 3-hour ordeal at Tunnel. That’s a cookie you pull out and eat when things get real.

So, even though it looked pretty bad at the river, I knew, it was just a matter of time before I’d turn a corner, keep some calories down, and move on with my day. No doubt, it was a really craptastic place to be—you’re 78mi into Western States and you’ve been stuck at the river for some two hours already, barfing, and generally hating life. The sun’s going down, you’re wrapped up in a bunch of blankets on a cot, daydreaming about resuming your vacation with your wife up in Tahoe, all the while knowing the only way out of this suck-fest, is through, to the goddamn finish in Auburn.

And it’s not like I just have to get up, give some high fives, and start walking outta there. Noooo, I gotta strap on a life-jacket and cross the cold-ass river… in my pathetic, emaciated state. To the same degree that I’m trying to recover and get my belly back, I’m also slowly mustering the courage to do it—Cross. The. F_____g. River.

Castle Peak 100k, Tahoe 200 champ, and good friend, Suzanna Bon rolls in to the aid-station and jump-starts my incipient resurrection. She’s got pacing duties but sees me laying on my cot and her eyes get big. I almost pull my space-blanket up over my head and hide. She runs over on a mission, ripping my security blankets off, giving me the tough love I asked her to give me the day before (why oh why did I do that?!).

I try. Suzanna’s soon off, shouting words of encouragement, as she’s crossing the river with her runner. Okay, gotta do this. I’m on my hands-n-knees again and—again—fill a plastic bag full of my stomach contents. But, I can tell things are turning around. Amanda finds Ken “All Day” Michel and asks him to have a little chat with me. Talk about the right guy in the right place! Ken’s not messing around. More tough love. He coaches me on how I’m going to get through this nightmare. I take two Pepto tabs then and there. He hands me a ziploc baggie full of Jolly Ranchers.

Note: I still loathe Jolly Ranchers from my high school wrestling days, sucking on them, spitting in a bottle, while in the sauna, in my sweats, all to lose weight for an upcoming match. I don’t bring it up with Ken. I want him to keep talking so I can stay at the aid-station a little longer. Ken seems to catch on that I’m basically just procrastinating at this point, so he—and everyone else—are now willing me to get my weary bones up and moving once more. It’s kind of like this beater car I had in high school that my friends would have to push, get it rolling, I’d pop the clutch and we’d be off. Everything seems to have come full circle. Except when I was this sick in high school, it wasn’t from running excessive miles in the heat. Although the hangover’s are just as bad now.

I don’t know about this Louis… You look WAY too excited, buddy. Why’s everyone SO goddamn happy? I’m gonna go back up and get some more broth, okay? I need to see if Ken has anymore watermelon Jolly Ranchers. Be right back! — Photo Credit: Helen Martin

The water level was pretty low by the time I actually started crossing. They regulate the flow on race-day and it only ever came up to about my waist. Thank God. I’m such a baby when it comes to cold water. If it weren’t for wetsuits, I wouldn’t have spent ten years in triathlon. No way. We get across the river to my drop-bag where I have a fresh pair of HOKA Torrents waiting to go, you know, the ones I planned to put on three hours ago, so I could run a quick final 20 miles to the finish. “Dude,” I told Louis, “Those shoes aren’t gonna make any difference at this point.” I’m sticking with the Speedgoats I have on. Let’s just go. Rucky Chucky erupts in cheers as we depart. I’m grateful for them and to be moving once more.

Pulling ourselves out of the belly of the beast. — Photo Credit: Helen Martin (???)

It’s a long slog up to Green Gate in the dark. I’m sucking on the hard candy and taking sips of water. My engine’s shot though. I just need to be patient. At Green Gate the only thing that looks remotely appealing is watermelon. Louis gets me some slices and we jam them into my vest pockets. We’re off. There’s a lot of walking involved. I start taking in the watermelon. Soon, we’re back to jogging. It’s good. My spirits lift. We’re talking and I’m cracking jokes. We start talking about breaking 24 hours. Silver buckle, baby! It looks totally doable. Eventually I run out of watermelon and am reduced to a walk once more. Walk. Walk. Walk. The belly’s talkin’ to me. Stomach’s doing its best. I’m belching a lot whenever I try to run. I chew up a couple Tums and chase them with some water. Better. Relentless forward progress…

Finally, we arrive to Auburn Lake Trails. I’m kind of pissed that after all the damn work to get here and I’m greeted at ALT with a sign reading, “Mile 85.” Holy. F*cking. Sh*t. This is taking forever. Louis loads me up with more watermelon this time. I’m reluctant to leave but breaking 24 is still the objective. The long slog to Quarry Rd. (mile 91) begins. “Aid-station to aid-station.” That was the plan going in. Just break up the daunting distance into more manageable pieces. As we’re walking and I’m melon munching, I start pretending I’m just out on a long hike, like on the Pacific Crest Trail or something. Hiking’s slow. But people do it. And they go long distances! I got this. There’s less and less jogging. More and more people are passing us. We ride a train of 24 hour folks until I eventually get spit out the back. It was fun while it lasted. I run out of watermelon. Where are those contemptible “Jolly” Ranchers?!

At Quarry Rd., Louis comes back from the aid-station table with a gallon ziploc of watermelon. “Is this enough?!” “That should do it,” I laugh. I grab it and stuff it in the back of my vest. Motor on. Step off the trail. Let pacers with runners-in-tow shuffle by. Try not to get sick. Pockets of warm air have us shed clothing while pockets of cold reduce me to shivering until I have to put my jacket on again. The waxing moon’s setting behind the mountains.

Pointed Rocks with Amanda and my patient crew. Mile 94. I’m not the only one cracking jokes…

It was great to see Amanda and Linn at Pointed Rocks. By this point it was all about just getting the job done. I hear an aid-station volunteer shout over, “You have an hour to break 24. You can do it!” I wholeheartedly appreciated the encouragement and vote of confidence and offer a thumbs-up. But, there’s no way in hell that’s happening, given my physical state. I’d be hard-pressed to run 10min miles to the track when I was fresh, given all the climb up to Auburn. On the way out of Pointed Rocks, I hear Amanda shout, “If it doesn’t take courage, it’s not worth doing!” A calm determination is restored.

Headlamps go off, the sun comes up, and we slog it over to No Hands Bridge. I stumble down to the aid-station. I don’t want to sit. I just want to get this done so we can all just go the hell to sleep. Amanda joins us for a memorable stroll across the iconic Western States 100 milestone. We stop and take in the view. “Okay, let’s go,” I mutter, “before I start to cry.” No thoughts of jumping off No Hands enter my mind. It’s a good sign.

Fumes. — Photo Credit: Louis Secreto

A few runners catch up and pass here and there as we make our ascent to Robie Point and into the town of Auburn, on our way to the finish line at Placer High School track. I look back occasionally to see if Scott Mills, a venerated veteran ultrarunner, and race-director for the San Diego 100, on his mission to complete his 18th Western States 100, is behind us. I know he’s back there, gettin’ the job done somewhere. Inspired at the thought, I shuffle upward with a bit more gusto. We crest Robie and my crew joins back in. I’d said to hell with eating anything hours ago. My crew of course, wants me to start jogging. I do want to finish with some dignity. We hit the track and I feel happy to be there. I jog it in and hear Andy Jones-Wilkins on the mic sharing some of my trials-n-tribulations at the river. He’d been down there with me, with words of encouragement. With 10 Western States finishes himself, I was proud to look up and see him step out of the booth and give me a thumbs up and flash that big AJW smile. It wasn’t the day I’d dreamed of, but I had one helluva adventure out there!

Sweet relief! At the Placer High School track in good ol’ Auburn, Calfornia.

Up for 31 hours and she looks fresh as a daisy. I love you Amanda! Thanks for putting up with a different bunch o’ bull today. We’re officially back on “vacation.” — Photo Credit: Gary Wang (thanks for all the great shots Gary! Especially this one).

Perspective. Hindsight, always being 20/20, I can only imagine what I will do differently next year, should I find a way back in. First off, I feel like I need to race once or twice more before the big day. I know my fitness responds well to races; they put the tiger in the cat! I had it in my head that I needed to be more conservative with racing and just slog out the lonely miles in training, and stay injury free. It worked for GDR. I’m wondering how things would have gone had I raced Canyons 100k at the end of April and/or Silver State 50mi in May. I think this would’ve kept me a little more in touch with my fitness going into June. I’m in the process of reconciling my fear of injury going into big races. If I want to perform to my potential and be aggressive on race-day, I can’t start tapering 5 weeks out from the event. To be certain, half the battle is showing up healthy. I’m great at doing that, in most instances.

Still, there’s two sides to every coin. Had I raced and gotten injured, there would’ve been no 2018 Western States 100. I would hands down prefer to have the experience I got rather than have had no experience at all. This was only my second time at States. It’s not like I have a decade’s worth of cherished memories from the event. The big positive from my crash-n-burn experience is that I connected with so many people in my lowest moments. Ultrarunning’s humbling. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re not going to be around very long.

Fall down 7 times, stand up 8. Six-time Ironman Hawaii champ, Dave Scott, is famous for saying “Do the training that gives you the confidence you need on race day.” I look back now on to a successful Tahoe Rim Trail 100mi in 2014, I’d been super aggressive with my spring build up, doing Marin Ultra Challenge 50mi, Lake Sonoma 50mi, and Silver State 50mi. Feeling invincible, I kick off my first training week in June, seven weeks out, with a 190-mile week. I’m not suggesting I’ll be going bonkers like that again, but reminiscing on that time, I do recall how confident I was on the start-line of the 100-miler in mid-July. Healthy, sustainable, training and racing is, of course, all about balance. Life looks different than it did back in 2014. I’ve avoided burnout and love competing now more than ever. Since that time, I’ve been knocked around quite a bit. I’ve climbed back in the ring, time and time again. Failure’s been one helluva great teacher. And man, are they right when they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In more ways than one!

In the mix. As I look ahead to Run, Rabbit, Run 100 in Sept, I imagine myself not sucking there. For all the wonderful, kind words from friends and so many strangers on my experience from Western States this year, it’s my feeling that sponsors aren’t impressed, in the least bit. I get it. I do. And I want to continue earning the privilege of having their support. There’s nothing like a bad race to show you exactly what you need to work on moving forward.

This month I’m jumping into some shorter races, to work on my speed, and I have to say, it feels damn good to race all out after only training for and racing ultra distances this year. Last Saturday in the Marin Headlands, I had the great fortune to battle a couple of guys for 30km (18.6mi) and surprised myself with how strong I was after absorbing a lackluster Western States, not to mention almost two restful weeks up at elevation. It was such a thrill and was the perfect way to reset after States. We pushed each other so hard, two of us went under the course-record set back in 2012, with 3rd place just seconds outside the CR. Fierce and fearless. I want to get back to that kind of mindset, all while keeping the ego in check and listening to the body when it’s telling me to rest.

I’ll continue to use racing to help me sharpen my fitness for Run Rabbit in September. The big test, which I hope to pass, will be Castle Peak 100k, four weeks out from Run Rabbit. Castle Peak, with it’s inspiring tag line, “Facing the brunt of fate. Indomitable. Unafraid.” With the base I’ve laid this year, some shorter, fast stuff in July, I’ll have time for a quick build for Castle Peak, but nothing long enough to dull my edge. Ultimately, Castle Peak will be a training race for the 100mi just four weeks later so I want to practice my refined process from States so I go into Run Rabbit firing on all four cylinders. I’ll do well in the overall, but I’m going in with zero outcome goals. I want to experience the course, race at elevation, and build some monster fitness for September.

Press. Here’s some fun digital artifacts from my Western States experience. I’m grateful to Kerry Benefield, from the Press Democrat for covering my journey from beginning to end. She did a great job capturing the spirit of the event. I’m equally grateful to Eric Schranz and Sarah Lavender Smith for having me on UltraRunnerPodcast after the race. Not that I like having shitty races, but I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people saying how much they enjoyed the episode because of what went down. It got real out there. And it sucked pretty damn bad those last 22 miles. If there’s a next year, I hope I’m back to being “boring,” and have little else to say other than, “I felt great after the river.”

Press Democrat article, by Kerry Benefield. Pre-Western States 100. 6/21/18. 

Press Democrat follow-up, by Kerry Benefield, Post-Western States 100. 6/27/18.

URP:  Bob Shebest  |  Everyone Has a Plan Until It Falls Apart – 6/28/18

A heartfelt note of appreciation to my beautiful and highly supportive wife/agent, Amanda. I love you mucho! FYI: Here’s Amanda’s Essential Oils Facebook page. You should definitely contact her and get yourself some Deep Blue Rub for your weary post-race legs. It’s the bomb. I’ve been using it for years!  |  Special thanks to Linn Secreto for teaming up with Amanda to crew. I really appreciate it. Sorry to keep your man out all damn night, “partying.”  |  HUGE thanks to Louis Secreto for pacing me, yet again, at Western States. We’ll always have Pine to Palm 2015. And yes, I know, I owe you A LOT of beer.  |  High-Tens to all the volunteers at this year’s Western States 100, especially you fine folks down at the Rucky [up]Chucky aid-station. I knew I’d get outta there, eventually. Thank you!!  |  Thanks to all the athletes I coach who inspire me with their passion and dedication to this crazy sport. #point_positive  |  Thank you to HOKA ONE ONE for producing the best trail shoes out there—#Speedgoat_2 #EVO_Mafate #timetofly   |  Thanks Healdsburg Running Company for the HUGE cheers along the way. You guys CRUSHED it in Foresthill. That was amazing! |  Thanks to Jeff Boggess from Trail Butter for sending out some yummy goodness before the race. I love using Trail Butter right before a long run or event. Amazing flavors. Slow burning calories!  |  Much gratitude to Casey Rolig from BUFF USA. Those cooling sleeves are the bomb.com  |   Thanks to Drymax Sports, for the sweet Hayden Hawks signature edition socks. Those socks inside my Speedgoats, I never had any foot issues (and I was out there a while, lemme tell ya!)  |  Squirrel Nut Butter. A liberal application at 2:30am on Saturday morning and I never had any chafing issues out there. And that’s saying something at Western States!  |  To the GU crew: My stomach may have revolted at the river but it had everything to do with me and my lofty ambition and nothing to do with my sports nutrition. My 30k CR last Saturday was won on Roctane Summit Tea and 3 little ol’ Roctane GUs. I’m psyched about my nutrition moving forward. #guforit  |  Finally, thanks to Dave Townsend at Santa Rosa Physical Therapy. I haven’t been in to see you in a long while, bud. Let’s keep it that way! It’s good piece of mind knowing you’re out there doing great things for us [over]active folks. Any time my athletes need a PT, you know where I’m sending ’em!

Parting Shot: Until we meet again Western States. Thanks for everything.

Pine to Palm 100

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So I had this crazy thought last year:  do two 100s in 2014 to celebrate turning 40. This reminds me [now] of a Navy buddy who had a coffee cup that read, “I had a bad idea.” What the h*ll, it’s ultrarunning after all, so it’ll probably suck for while but then you’ll have some great memories and stories to share. Game on!!

All things considered, things have gone pretty darn well this season. I can’t complain [too much]. With the full 2013 season in my legs, I feel I’ve navigated the 2014 race season fairly well—got some speed in the bank early in the year, culminating with a fast 50k in February, hilly 50-milers in March, April, and May. A huge block of run training in June not only set me up to do well at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in June but also allowed me to recover properly from it so that I could sneak some August training in between the two 100s, which were only 8 weeks apart.

About that August training. Well, it was total fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I started back to school, and that stress, pushing 150 kids through my classroom everyday—learning names, establishing routines, and the like, really took a toll on the available energy [and desire] to train for another mountainous 100 in September. So, I had to trim the fat—lots of days completely off, some cycling thrown in, concentrate on getting good sleep [so AM running went out the window], a mid-week tempo session, along with a quality weekend long run. Bare bones. At the end of the day, Pine to Palm (P2P) was about experiencing a different 100-miler (a mountainous and beautiful point-to-point race) and celebrating turning 40. I knew I wouldn’t be as bullet-proof as I was in July, but what do they say? Sometimes you have to let yourself be a little vulnerable. Just go out there, run smart, and do your thing.

With all the stress of stepping out of my life for a few days to go run 100 miles in the forest, I was carrying a fair amount of guilt with me; guilt for leaving my students for two days, guilt for sticking my wife, Amanda, with the dogs the whole time, and guilt for just generally being 40 years old and still chasing something, out there on the race-course. Why?…

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I guess it’s because I believe in the late Louis Zamperini’s words—we should get out there and do the things we find fascinating so that we can feel most alive. The day before the race, I found a card Amanda had stashed in my race-gear. She’d included the Louis Zamperini quote about experiencing as much as you can in life. Amanda and I became fans of “Zamp” through Laura Hillebrand’s book, Unbroken, which comes out in theaters this Christmas. In both TRT and P2P, in those darker moments, I imagined myself sitting in the theater, watching ol’ Zamp’s movie, thinking back to my summer struggles in these two great events, my own [tame by comparison] tests of will and perseverance. On some level, I just wanted to be worthy of that moment in the future; sitting there, still, relaxed, and enjoying a movie on the big screen with Amanda, with a level of pride for having risen to the occasions, doing something I find fascinating and for which I have great enthusiasm. I imagined getting the silent nod from Zamp, as if my long-distance running efforts in Tahoe and Oregon were my way of honoring his life. In the spirit of Viktor Frankl, my imagining a moment in the future gave great meaning to the present moment, when all our bodies want to do is stop running, stop pushing…

With Eric Litvin, outside Rogue Valley Runners, the day before the race.

With Eric Litvin, outside Rogue Valley Runners, the day before the race. Photo Credit: Chris Jones

Amanda’s full of good ideas and suggested I get a head start on the weekend by driving half-way up to the race and stay in Redding on Thursday night, then drive the rest of the way up the next day. lnside Trail Racing team-mate, and TRT100 pacer, Chris Wehan, threw his hat in the race and would be one of my main competitors. We’d meet up in Ashland on Friday, where I’d drop my car off near the finish. Chris, his pacer Stephen Wassather, and I jetted off to the race-meeting in Williams, deposited drop-bags, and headed back to our hotel in Grants Pass where Chris’s girlfriend, Melanie would later join the party.

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Race Morning with Chris Wehan (left) and Kevin Chan (right). Photo Credit: Stephen Wassather and Chandra Farnham respectively.

Chris and Mel were at P2P last year so it was awesome having the gang back together after our fun times just two months prior in Tahoe. They knew all the ins-n-outs of the event, including how to get us to the starting line in the morning. I was super grateful.

It’s all fun-n-games race morning, bumpin’ around, takin’ pictures, really just not thinking about what’s really ahead. I’d made a bracelet with distances from aid-station to aid-station and that’s what I kept telling myself in the days and minutes before the 6am start—“Just run aid to aid. Nothing else exists.” Chunking in this manner really is a highly effective strategy to get through the day.

Since I was in unchartered territory here in Oregon, running my second 100 in eight weeks, I didn’t think I had it in me to get close to Tim Olson’s course-record (CR) of 17:19, set on a different course in 2011. That didn’t stop me from plugging 10:23/mi into my Virtual Pacer. At mile 28 I was 30min ahead of CR pace, but that moment was the only instance I looked at it. I’d need near perfect preparation and execution on race-day to get close to the CR, not to mention not having a CR 100mi performance just 8 weeks prior.

According to Ultra Signup, my main competitors were thought to be Chris Wehan (32), Andrew Miller (18) 3rd place in 2013, and Lon Freeman (39). In the months leading up, I was sure the competition on the front would grow, especially since P2P has become a Western States qualifying race. I’m sure other events the same weekend—Run Rabbit Run 100 in Colorado, The Rut 50 in Montana, etc.—drew speedy speedsters away from P2P. Oh well, not complaining!

The race went off without much fanfare. You have to love the start of a 100mi. It’s like, “Okay, the race started, let’s shoot the sh*t with some buddies we haven’t seen in a while.” Red Bluff teacher, and long-time ultrarunning bro, Joe Palubeski found me in the dark in the opening mile and we chatted it up for a bit. Then I realized I hadn’t wished Chris good luck so found him. Then, slowly, it was drifting into the moment at hand—running a 100 miles to Ashland. It was all goosebumps and smiles…

Two-time defending champ, Gerad Dean, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the TRT100 Training Runs and running with on race day in July, executed a great race here at P2P last year. So much so that I based my race on his 2013 ultralive.net splits since I felt that’d be the most valid guestimate of my first performance here. This proved invaluable on race-day, especially with regard to nutrition and getting from drop-bag to drop-bag, since Amanda wasn’t here to crew me, though Chris’s girlfriend Mel, was beyond awesome in helping me out wherever she could [all day] while crewing for Chris.

The first 28mi to my first drop-bag to Seattle Bar is a blur. I knew one thing coming into this race: I didn’t want to get off course. There were a few occasions where I just happened to be looking in the right direction and caught course-ribbons at the last minute. But not getting off course all day in this point-to-point 100-miler was pretty great. P2P race-director, Hal Koerner, told us at the race briefing that we’d have to try pretty hard to get off course. Still, I didn’t trust myself. Note: I talked to a woman at awards on Sunday; she’d gotten off course four times.

We were running with a group a four, which included Juan De Oliva, who I was talking with while we were all running up some switchbacks early. There was one occasion where we all thought we were off course (but weren’t) and another where I was running in the back and happened to spy a ribbon off to my right, going up another switchback. The gang had gone straight, so I gave a holler, and they turned around and followed me up the next stretch. Juan gave a great big smile ’cause we just avoided excess miles. A little team-work through this section proved valuable.

Next thing I knew I was enjoying chatting with Ethan Linck (23) from Seattle who was running his first 100 here at P2P. We were putting down some low 6’s running down some fire-roads and eventually caught up and quickly passed first place. I had on my trusty HRM and was keeping the effort parked in the low 140s. It was curious at that moment how it was more challenging to keep my HR down on the descents than on the climbs. I guess, instinctively, my mind wants to push the downs since that is a greater strength than the ups. Or, it could be that I just have more fun running down and just want to enjoy the sensations of running fast and free.

The downhill continued and through Steamboat Ranch at 22, I looked to just another 6mi to my first drop-bag at Seattle Bar. Winding fire-road. I heard Ethan behind me and then I didn’t any more. Relax and run…

I quickly weighed in at Seattle Bar (150lbs) emptied my drop-bag’s contents, downed 20oz of coconut water and grabbed a 20oz bottle of Vitargo and a 20oz bottle of water, for what was advertised as a nasty section up to Stein Butte at mile 33. I took off my shirt expecting hot temps and hightailed it outta Seattle Bar.

We were close to 50k in and the temps weren’t living up to their reputation. It appeared the smoke from recent forest fires was insulating us from the sun. Good thing too, was the smoke, albeit light, wasn’t affecting me in the least. This section, turned out to be very enjoyable and, for some strange reason, I kept imagining I was running on my home trails at Lake Sonoma. This would happen all throughout the race, where it was all-too-easy to imagine running at Hood/Sugarloaf or on the trails at TRT100. Regardless, it was clear that I was well-adapted to the sometimes technical nature of the P2P single-track stretches.

Within two miles, I almost step on a juvenile rattlesnake [who was thankfully rattling plenty loud for me to hear] and then my Garmin HRM craps out on me (perhaps the spike from the rattler scare short-circuited my HRM?).

P2P is a ultra-run designed for ultrarunners by ultrarunners. You get four great opportunities to assess the situation behind you—at Squaw Lakes (41.5), Hanley Gamp/Squaw Peak (52), Dutchman Peak (65), and finally at Wagner Butte (87). And that keeps things interesting.

At Squaw Lakes, I cruised in, dropped a bottle, and ran around the 2mi circumference of the lake, anxious to get a bead on the competition behind. I was wondering when the kid, Andrew Miller, was going to make his move. I knew he’d just won Waldo 100k on August 16th. He had to be tired from that huge effort. Not to mention his P2P course knowledge, after placing 3rd here last year. Like Speedgoat Karl says, “you’re always faster the second time [you run the same 100]”. Yeah, so I get back around to the aid-station, see my old Santa Rosa friend Chandra (who lives in SoCal now, with her boyfriend Kevin, who I’m currently coaching) who’s run out from the aid station. She gives me some encouragement and I ask her how far back 2nd place is. She says not too far back and I ask her who it is. She doesn’t know. Well, what does he look like? An ultrarunner.  🙂

Back at the Squaw Lakes aid-station, Chris’s girlfriend Mel and Chris’s later-in-the-day pacer, Stephen, have my drop-bag at the ready. I’ve begun feeling the effects of the last 50 miles. Plus I’m a little cold. What happened to all that crazy heat we were supposed to get Hal? Mel said, “You’re doing great, Chris is about 15min behind you.” I said, “Chris is in 2nd?!” Mel replied, “Yeah, he’s moving up.”

Running out, I’m thinking either Chris did a lot of secret training I don’t know about, or he’s writing a check his body can’t cash (which is good and bad depending how I’m thinking about it). My next thought, was who better to be chasing me than a buddy, who just paced me at TRT100, who’s girlfriend and pacer were helping me along in the race since it was just me and my drop-bags up here in Oregon. Still, it was a race and we were now pushing each other in earnest. Perfect.

At Hanley Gap (50/52), Celeb-RD Hal makes you run up to the top of Squaw Peak to retrieve a flag pin. I love it. When I got up there I found myself standing and staring at a concrete slab. No flags in sight. WTF Hal?!? I looked up and saw this little building up on top of some rocks. Ah-Ha! I found some little stairs to climb and beheld the coveted flags. On the way down I was filled with ambivalence, seeing Chris climbing up. I told him about the path up to the little flags. He said he knew. And I remembered he’d done this race last year—advantage Chris.

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Was that woman with the trekking poles wearing a race number?!? — Coming down from Squaw Peak around the half-way. Photo Credit: Melanie Michalak (aka: President of the Rebecca Kirschenmann Fan Club).

As I polished off the out-n-back, and arrived back at the aid-station, Mel threw me my calorie bottle and sent me on my way. I’d seen a woman starting up Squaw Peaks as I was coming down and was trying to wrap my brain around whether she was really in my race. Did I actually see a bib # on her right leg? She looked like she was all business with those trekking poles… Hmm… I’m really starting to feel this race… I have an idea…

I had a coin purse in my back shorts pocket. I refer to it as my mini medicine cabinet. For P2P it included a few Tums, Pepto Tabs, some anti-nausea pills, and a few acetaminophen (500mg) capsules. Since I knew the hardest part of the day was coming up—mile50 to approx 65—I decided to pop a couple acetaminophen to take the edge off. I figured I’d done a good job hydrating and eating up ’til this point and the body was in good shape, it should tolerate the acetaminophen just fine. Umm, wrong.

Shortly thereafter, my stomach started to go south. I’ve only had problems with vomiting in 100s, not with other end of the digestive track. My stomach was doing full-on doing somersaults. “This f_____g sucks!” Damm*t, I should’ve only taken ONE of those acetaminophen capsules. Sh*t!! I visited the side of the road a few times, getting some practice on my cat-hole digging skills. “If I could just work out this pain in my gut.” My lead is shrinking. They are coming. Suck it up… Keep moving.” I massaged my stomach and could no longer keep my hand-helds tucked in the small of my back since the belt I had on to secure them was not helping my stomach distress.

[Excerpt from Pine to Palm’s race-director’s new book, entitled Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning: Training for an Ultramarathon from 50k to 100miles and Beyond]:

Pain Relievers

Pain relievers might ease discomfort or offer a helping hand a a low point in the race, but they should be approached with caution. Most studies point to NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen—or “vitamin I,” as it is affectionately called among ultrarunners—as being a poor choice of pain reliever during a race. For one, it can mask the muscle damage you are inflicting. Also, studies indicate it can contribute to a condition called rhabdomyolysis, which can result in renal failure […]

Aspirin, aspirin creams, naproxen, and acetaminophen, on the other hand, do not present similar problems for the kidneys and are generally good go-to choices of pain relief. I apply an aspirin cream preventively to my calves and around my knees prior to an event because I have found it help reduce inflammation and manage pain. I might take a single acetaminophen during a race, at mile 50 or so, to obtain a degree of relief when I need it most. However, I limit my intake to just that one. That may be excessively conservative but, personally speaking, I just don’t want to rely on it. I am uncomfortable with the idea of masking pain, perhaps running myself into the ground with an injury. Sometimes, when the analgesic wears off later, you make the unpleasant discovery that you would have been better off listening to your body instead of muting its signals! Thus I recommend a conservative approach to pain relievers (p.97).

I wish I would have read this prior to Pine to Palm. I did know better than to take ibuproven (NSAIDs) in an ultra. If I’d only taken ONE acetaminophen capsule instead of those two I would have likely avoided a lot of unnecessary discomfort (and slowing!). Live and learn. Bottom line: I need to be less of a baby. Like they say, borrowing strength builds weakness.

Smokey day. Photo credit: Stephen Wassather

Smokey day kept the sun off us. #godsend — Photo credit: Stephen Wassather

On and on and on it went, up the longest, god-forsaken fire-road, smoke hanging low in the sky and a red sun burning on the horizon. While my stomach was giving me fits, I remember trying to dwell on what was going right. I was grateful for how well my legs were doing beneath me—just clicking over in their Hoka Stinson ATR‘s without a care in the world. “Come on stomach, let’s pull through this. The legs are ready to dance…” The top of Dutchman Peak could not come fast enough.

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Arriving on top of Dutchman Peak. Photo credit: Linn Secreto.

Up on top of Dutchman, something shifted, I could see Chris on one of the several switchbacks below. He was only about 10min back at that point. Then I looked at the incredible views to my left as I approached the summit. All of a sudden I felt myself starting to get choked up [with emotion]. Up a bit more I saw Mel up to my right on an overlook with her camera. She called down with some encouragement and said, “Amanda liked her flowers!” This added to the emotion. Note – I thought it’d be cool for my wife to receive flowers from me while she was at home, hitting the refresh button on ultralive.net all day, whilst I was in the belly of the beast in Oregon. Next, I see this guy with his arms up and realize it’s my pacer, Louis (which, by the way, is a great name for any pacer of mine, being a Louis Zamperini fan and all).

"Man, I'm I glad to see you." With Louis Secreto. Photo Credit: Linn Secreto

“Man, I’m I glad to see you.” With Louis Secreto. Photo Credit: Linn Secreto

Dutchman Peak was hands-down the turning point of the race for me. Running up to the summit to retrieve my drop-bag, the American Author’s song, Best Day of My Life blasted out of huge speakers. For a moment, I thought Amanda was actually up there, somehow choreographing the whole scene; that song’s been a favorite of ours all year (the bulldog version of course). Yeah, so Louis and I get our sh*t together and get outta Dodge, running back down to the primary trail. We soon pass Chris, who says to me, “Let’s not do this again next year.” Cracking up, I wholeheartedly agree him. Then, just a bit back from Chris is the first-place female, Becky Kirschenmann.

I would come to find out that Becky was the women’s defending champ, and used Trans Rockies (a multi-day, 120mi trail run with 20’000′ of vertical, held this year from 8/11-8/16) to help prepare her for Pine to Palm. It was probably best I didn’t know these things as now she was within 10min of me at mile 65 of a 100mi run.

Departing Dutchman, we connect with the primary trail again, leading to some of the most delightful single-track running of the day. We pass a sign, “7 miles to next aid.” Things were again good. There was some hoot-n-hollerin’ goin’ on as Louis and I enjoyed the beginning of our journey together. Both of us transplant Pennsylvania boys who drive the same Subaru Outback Sport, live in Sonoma County, and only met by chance just two weeks prior. Louis’ runner came up injured and Louis, thankfully, offered his pacing services about a week out from P2P, much to Amanda’s relief. With what felt like a new lease on life, it was great to be on some very runnable terrain again, with the rising red moon in front of us. Five miles from Dutchman now, watching the water and calories. Six miles… 7miles… Where’s the aid-station?! 8 miles. Going dry… 9 miles… “Did we miss it?” We’re seeing blue ribbon. Boom, there it is. Whew. Long John Saddle.

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Stephen and Chris departing Dutchman Peak in hot pursuit. Photo Credit:  Melanie Michalak

I put on a tank-top, which was perfect with the current temps, grabbed two fresh bottles and we were off. No sign of any body behind. We got a mile out and couldn’t hear anyone back at the aid-station. We trust though that Chris and Becky are in pursuit. Don’t let up. This sh*t is getting exciting! At TRT I was chasing a CR so that’s what kept that race fun. Here, I was way off the CR but was feeling fortunate to have two runners closing in behind. This is what it’s all about. The simplicity of racing is often a great joy

Mile 80 (Wagner Butte). My mind was still playing tricks on me, given the conditioning it’s received from its four Tahoe Rim Trail 100s. Mile 80 sounds close to the finish, but at TRT100, you’re at the bottom of Diamond Peak, with a lot of hard running left to do. “Don’t think. Just run from aid to aid.” Curiously lucid, I got some great information from the aid-station captain. He said, it’s 3mi to the turn that takes you to the out-n-back up to Wagner Butte to retrieve the flag-pin. It’s 1.7mi from the trail to the top and 1.7 back. you’ll take a left at the bottom, then it’s 3mi down to Rd 2060 aid-station. Game on.

Louis and I discussed the possibility of getting up and down Wagner Butte before Chris and/or Becky arrived to do the out-n-back for the flag pin. I knew with how close they were at Dutchman, even with our strong push since then, we’d likely not opened up a big enough gap.

I’d been taking splits leaving each aid-station all day, keeping track of the distance from aid to aid, to carefully ration water and calories. From Wagner Butte aid, I took a split and watched the one piece of data I had displayed on my watch (since HR crapped out at mile 34) which was Lap Distance. 1mi. 2mi. 2.3mi… 2.8… Boom—3.0, and there’s the ribbon signaling the left turn up to Wagner Butte and the second flag pin of the race.

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At this point, I knew I was going to see some competition on the way back down from Wagner Butte Summit. The question was, how much of a gap had we created from Dutchman? Uphill over technical terrain to the summit we went. Once on top, we both searching around in the darkness with our headlamps flashing here and there. No flagpins. WTF Hal?!? Then I remember Squaw Peak. Look up. OMG, another elevated structure up there, atop these huge, sharp boulders. Louis starts up. “I’ll get it,” he says. I’m like, “I’m the runner, I’m coming along too.” I throw my hand-helds down right under a reflectorized race ribbon so I can easily find them later. Hand over hand I follow Louis up to the top. “What color do you want?” “What colors do they have?” We take a moment to enjoy the view of the city of Medford, lit up like Christmas to the north. I hoot-n-holler some more and we decide we need to take it easy coming off the rocks and back down the 1.7mi to the main trail so neither one of us breaks his neck. Once down I grab my bottles and take a split.

Smooth and steady. Run quickly when we can. Distance and time. Distance and time. Bam, there’s Becky. 0.7mi. So, we’ve got 1.4mi on her and she needs to climb up and down the mass of boulders for the pin. Pacerless, she steps aside to let us run through. We tell her to be careful on the rocks. She agrees. I yell back to suggest she should stay up on top for a while and enjoy the scenery. No reply. I tell Louis I don’t think she appreciates my humor. He’s not laughing either. We settle back into the task…

The 3mi after the out-n-back is pure murder on the knees and ankles. Hal told us he believes the only time this stretch actually gets any action is during Pine to Palm. Louis said while we were running down this technical, steep, and switch-backy descent, “This is insult to injury” [for the participants]. As we’re getting toward the end of this section we see a bunch of young dudes hiking up toward us. One cheers, “We’re aid-station 2060!!” I’m thinking to myself, “If you guys are Road 2060 aid-station, who the h*ll’s manning aid-station 2060?” Turns out, one of the guy’s mom was manning the station, alone. Poor lady. As she was helping me mix up a bottle of water/broth she was talking about killing her son when he returned. Louis and I eased on down the road… 10mi to go…

Somewhere in there, I stopped to pee. My headlamp happened to light up my urine stream and I found it oddly colored, like cranberry juice. “Hey, Louis, I’m peeing blood.” We got running again. Silence. “So,” Louis said, “Has this happened before?” “Umm, yeah, after a hard 50k in the Marin Headlands last fall.” [I’d taken ibuproven before the race]. “What do you want to do?” “Just stay steady.” I sure didn’t want to mess myself up but I still wanted to finish this race strong. Body seems okay otherwise. A little discomfort from my kidneys on both sides but nothing painful. Easy does it. Keep the calories and water/broth coming in. Steady energy input… Steady energy output…

Louis lets me know when it’s 4mi to go and I try to show some backbone. We we averaging between 7:30 and 8:00/mi pace up ’til that point. I suddenly get it in my head that we’re going to make a strong push to the finish. Now we’re running in the 6:00/mi range down smooth fire road, booking it pretty good. Louis is rocking it right by my side. A quarter mile later we’re back to 7:30pace. It was fun while it lasted…

This rolling, pain-in-the-@$$ mountain-bike section comes up and Louis says, “This trail sucks.” I whole heartedly agree with him. The trail’s anything but smooth and I’ve got no idea how I haven’t kissed the dirt yet. Thankfully—or not so much— we hit the super steep black-top and begin the final mile (death march) toward the finish line in Ashland. A couple 100yds down Louis spies a ribbon off to the right. I run over and study this “trail.” There’s another ribbon. It looks like some local riff-raff messed with the course-markings. There’s a big pile of green waste in the center of the trail. Louis runs down the road to try and find more ribbon. I’m thinking to myself, “this doesn’t look right. I thought we run down this steep, paved road to the finish. I know we do.” I start making my way down to Louis, when I hear him call up, “Here’s a ribbon. This is right.” I take a look uphill and see if I can spy a first-place female descending without her headlamp on. I catch up with Louis and a truck goes by us. It’s Hal, out spray-painting arrows on the course to the finish. We tell him about the riff-raffed ribbon. He gives us directions to the finish. We’re confused. He offers to drive us in, speed up enough to stop, open up his door, leans out, freshens up a spray-painted arrow from yesteryear’s Pine to Palm, and gets moving again before we catch up to him. Especially nice to see the inflatable arch and lots of folks hangin’ out at the finish.

We did it Louis. And I didn't die on you. Photo Credit: Linn Secreto

We did it Louis. And I didn’t die on you. Photo Credit: Linn Secreto

It sucked not having Amanda at the finish but I was in good hands having friends to keep an eye on me. This was the first 100 in which I didn’t vomit, during or immediately after. So that was nice, ’cause I got to enjoy the company of all the folks at the finish. Louis’ wife Linn let me use her phone to [eventually] call Amanda (it was a team effort to remember my wife’s phone #). Craig Thornley, aka: Mr. Western States, aka: Mr. UltraLive.Net, aka: Joe, was hanging out and I suggested, in my post-100mi euphoria that because I’d purchased 100 tickets for the last WS raffle—and didn’t win—I should at least get a Western States refrigerator magnet. I don’t think he was amused. Soon thereafter, an exhausted Melanie Michalak appeared and we started on the idea of transported my old bones over to their hotel, as per the master plan. I felt like a helpless 4y/o with my mom. “Umm, I’m cold.” “Can I take a piece of pizza with us?” Meanwhile, Becky Kirschenmann was back in the kitchen talking with folks about the day, looking really no worse for wear. l told Nate Dunn, who was in the cot next to mine. “I think she’s the terminator. I kept looking back expecting to see red eyes in the darkness.” At the end of the day, she finished up only about 30min back, shaving over 2hrs off her own Pine to Palm course-record. I’m confident that even if a handful of the most recognized female ultrarunners showed up and ran this course, they’d have a tough time besting Becky’s record. She’s set the bar high (and again, without a pacer).

p2p_breakfast

Greatest Breakfast Ever — Races & Pacers:  Chris Wehan, Stephen Wassather, and Louis Secreto.

I’d love to come back and do this one again. In the event I get into Western States 2015, it’s nice to have a point-to-point 100mile event in the books. All things considered it was a really amazing race, and even a week later, continues to dwell in my consciousness. It was special indeed to have every step taken all day be on a course on which I’d never stepped foot. And like all prior 100s, there were challenges to overcome and awesome friends with whom to celebrate the good times. Thanks to Hal, and his Pine to Palm crew for doing a bang-up job on race-day. And thanks for marking that course so well. Thanks to Mel and Chris for all the logistical team-work and full-on crewing/hand-holding/shuttling etc. And congrats Chris on slaying the P2P beast!! Looking forward to seeing what you two do at Javelina. Your best 100s are in front of you both. Thanks to Louis and Linn Secreto for huge support out there. Amanda was right (again) that I would’ve been screwed without a pacer. Thanks to Becky for keeping me honest and making me work my @$$ off from Wagner Butte to the finish. And big thanks to my wife, Amanda for giving me a pass to go do this. Your love and support is so appreciated.  😀

p2p_awards

Sunday Awards at the finish line in Ashland. With the “celeb-RD” Hal and women’s winner Rebecca Kirschenmann. Photo Credit: Linn Secreto.

Pine to Palm 100 Strava Data

ultralive.net webcast

Thanks to my beautiful, loving, and highly supportive wife Amanda for her thankless job [even from afar] as “First Responder.” Look at my toe!

Thank you to Hoka One One for the their awesome support and producing the best shoe in ultrarunning—DEMAND MORE!    |    Thanks to Inside Trail Racing for your offering so many fantastic races in great places.  |   Thanks to Clif Bar for fueling my training and racing.  |   Nuya is perfectly natural hydration that combines electrolytes and carbohydrates to properly hydrate and fuel your body. I love it as a recovery drink!

Thank you Heart-n-Sole Sports for your continued support. Thanks to Brian and the awesome instructors at Paradise Yoga, a brand new yoga studio, right here in my hometown of Windsor. Yoga’s definitely helping my running. Namasté!   |  Thanks to the folks at Akoia Day Spa for the painful sports massages I get a few days post-event. Bringing me back to life!