Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Western States 100

We flew out to Reno on Thursday and drove in to Squaw Valley. We stayed at a condo in the village. After a couple days of race meetings and medical checks I was ready to go. I got to the starting line Saturday morning at 5 AM. It was around 38 degrees and very windy.
Squaw Valley (5 AM) – 0 The first 4 miles was a power walk up 2000' to the Escarpment. It was a winding dirt and rock road. There was no need for a headlamp as the sun was coming up. Once we got to the top it began to hail and we had very strong 30-40 MPH winds. I always have to remember when things get tough in a race that I signed up for this. At Western States you also have to qualify and get lucky in the lottery.

Escarpment – 3.5 Single track trails and very wet. Some sections were very technical and I had to let some slower climbers that I had beat up the hill pass me as we were now going downhill. I was really working on my rhythm and finding a group to latch on to. I got some rocks in my right shoe so I stopped at Lyons Ridge at mile 10 to remove the rocks.

Lyons Ridge (7:28 AM) – 10.5 It was still raining but I was feeling better and I locked in with a big group. I always seem to end up on the front end of the group which is good because I can set the pace and have a good view of the trail. It made me feel slow but when I asked if anyone wanted to pass they all said no. I was eating just a little fruit off the tables and taking a gel every 20 min. I did get a little frustrated on Lyons Ridge as I wanted my hydration vest filled with Brew GU, but I couldn’t figure out what they were doing so I ended up just going with water.

Red Star Ridge (8:45 AM) – 16 By mile 16 I was up to 200th place and starting to pick up the pace a little. Still this was 2+ min per mile slower than I ran at RR. That tells you just how much tougher this course is than RR. I was doing salt every hour which was too much in the cold. My elbows were very sore so I didn't think I could hold a handheld until I got better electrolyte balance. I started backing off the salt. This was my fastest run section of the entire race.

Duncan Canyon (10:30 AM) – 23.8 This next section felt like 6 miles of uphill. My pace fell way off and I had no energy. I knew that the first medical check was coming up at the next aid station and I didn't know if I was too high or low on my weight.

Robinson Flat (12:11 PM) – 29.7 I was up 4 pounds at medical. I felt pretty bad and thought I was lucky to get thru without more questions. I saw my crew here for the first time. I got a dry shirt, drank my Endurox, got my music and had too many calories. The next 2-3 miles were very runnable but my stomach was so full it hurt to run. I was peeing every 5 miles all day but had to go every mile here until I emptied my stomach. I got marginally stronger thru this section. There is a fine balance and I broke the rule here. Too many calories at one time is not going to sit well in your stomach. You also need to know your course. You can load up before a walking section but not before a section that is runnable. They warned us in one of the pre-race briefings and I didn't make good enough notes. The best lessons are the ones that hurt like a punch to the gut. I got it.

Miller's Defeat (1:37 PM) – 34.4 At this point, I was really only concentrating on getting to the next aid station. I would struggle when I would think about 20 miles until I see my crew again. My hydration vest was too much and with the cool weather I realize I could have gotten by with 2 handhelds like the big boys.

Dusty Corners – 38 This is a short leg and I am really starting to feel good again. I am starting to see some strong splits again.

Last Chance (3:42 PM) – 43.3 This next section was a real challenge but I was finally strong again. It was 2 miles down a very steep drop to the bottom of the canyon. Very rocky and technical. I wish I had this section to run once a month at home -- it would make me twice the runner I am. I went down as fast as I could without cracking my head open on the rocks. I can't believe I made the entire 100 miles without ever going down. The last 1.8 miles after the bridge over the water at the bottom was straight up Devil's Thumb. I was catching a bunch of people power climbing up. This is where all the climbs at Jemez got me ready.

Devil's Thumb (5:01 PM) – 47.8 I forgot to ask for a Popsicle at the aid station. Actually I yelled for one as soon as I saw volunteers but they weren't the right people to ask... I am sure that Popsicle or lack thereof cost me an hour.

El Dorado Creek (6:21 PM) – 52.9 I am picking the pace back up as I will see my crew at 55.7. The last 2 miles was a good power hike with another guy. We had a really good visit.

Michigan Bluff (7:20 PM) – 55.7 I came into Michigan Bluff feeling real strong. My crew was glad I had gotten myself back together after looking like I was done at 30. As I left this aid station I knew that sub 24 was over but I felt pretty good. I was behind a large pack of guys. I just power hiked behind them for the first mile till the trail leveled off. Then I started cranking out 12 min miles and flew by them. For a second I thought if I can keep this up I can chase 24 hours. But I quickly came to my senses and just stayed with the mile at hand.

Bath Road – 60.6 I picked up my pacer Carolyn here. I let her know I felt good and she kept my spirits upbeat. We ran very strong getting into Foresthill.

Foresthill School – 62 We got into Foresthill and we were flying. There were some flat roads so we were running sub-10’s which, at this point of the race, felt like tempo. We got what we needed from Sunny (The best crew leader) and took off. She said Kim and Christopher were across the street eating and thinking about singing some Karaoke. I should have grabbed my Timex as my Garmin died in the next few miles. I turned on my headlamp and we started on the trails running strong. I was having a problem with the trails looking very blurry. I have been told so many times to use a handheld flashlight but I just keep buying more headlamps. So Carolyn gave me her flashlight and all off a sudden I could see so much better. I would give her a pace and she would lay it down. I am going to start working on running races without pace -- maybe just display the mileage and time of day without pace.

Peachstone (11:20 PM) – 70.7 Everything kind of ran together in the dark, so I skipped a few aid stations during the night. We would get to each aid station and see how far ahead of the 30 hr. pace we were. I was only around 45 min ahead of 30 earlier in the day (around the time I picked up Carolyn). By Green Gate I had over a 2 ½ hrs cushion. This area was very hilly. I kept waiting for the very runnable section after 62 that everyone kept telling me about. It never got very runnable in my eyes.

Rucky Chucky (1:39 AM) (near) – 78 I grabbed some food and adjusted my equipment to cross the river. It was like being in a dream. I have heard about this river crossing for years. Of course in the movies the elites are always crossing in the light of day... Once I got in the water it felt good. Really helped refresh my legs. The rocks on the bottom were so slick. It was so shallow I had to bend over to grab the rope. The current was very strong. Without the rope I would have definitely been carried downstream. Carolyn got across the river in about 30 seconds. I ran into Libby in the river - she was volunteering in a wetsuit in the water. I have no idea how those people were not freezing as it was about 2:30 AM and in the 50's.

Rucky Chucky (farside) Kim was there with a jacket for me. Carolyn, Kim and I then power hiked up to Green Gate where Sunny and Christopher were waiting for us. I had thought I would probably change shoes/socks after the river crossing, but opted not to once I got up the hill. Carolyn stayed with Sunny and Christopher and Kim joined me for the last 20.

Green Gate (2:18 AM) – 79.8 This was not a good section. I really needed to run some sections here and there but I just couldn't get going. This is where I needed my 5 hr energy. It was basically 20 min miles from here on to the finish. With better focus I could have cut off a couple of hours. We didn't have a GPS at this point, and I really struggled with that. I will need to practice some more races without GPS. I got so confused not knowing how far I had to go to get to the next aid station.

Brown's Bar (6:07 AM) – 89.9 You could hear this aid station for a mile or more. They had such loud music. I had some chaffing issues I was dealing with. I was applying Vaseline almost every aid station. I continued to eat gels every 30 min.

No Hands Bridge – 96.8 I started to run some downhills at this point. I was having problems calculating my pace without a watch and I didn’t know if I was going to finish in under 30 hours. After I got rolling again my legs felt better and I could have pushed more if I needed too. The bridge had the most amazing views. I wish I still had my camera here. The sun was up and it was starting to get hot. After crossing the bridge we had two tough miles of climbs to get to Robie Point.

Robie Point (9:21 AM) – 98.9 Sunny was here to run me in. This is on roads and the first ½ mile is up hill. I was so happy to be done but still I had no ability to calculate anything. I kept asking Sunny if we could get to the stadium before 10 AM. Once we got to the stadium, we ran around the track as fast as I could. Finishing time was 28:47:36.

Overall, I had such a great time. The course was much tougher than I thought it would be. We were always going up or downhill. I needed a lot more muscles in my legs to run this entire course. I struggled early-on with nutrition, but I got it down by the end. I still had areas where my energy faded but it would always come back. I learned so much during this race that will help me down the road. Hopefully I will get another shot one day. Two days after, my legs feel much better and they should be good in a couple of weeks. For now I will enjoy sleeping in. I was so overwhelmed by all the support from my running friends, non-running friends and family. My pacers and crew did a great job and I really appreciate their work. I ran the entire race in my Montrail Bajada, Injinji socks and Nathan hydration vest. I took mostly Gus, probably more than 50.


  1. Nick, you are such an inspiration to me. I do not know where you find your strength but I'd like to tap into that. So glad your beautiful Sunny was there to cheer you on. I was cheering you on from Charlotte, NC & watching your updates on Facebook. Thanks for the post. I always enjoy reading your race re-caps. Looking forward to your next one.

  2. This is amazing! I am seriously impressednwith how you endured those conditions and that tough course. Congratulations!

  3. Well done Nick! Was fun tracking you all weekend! I can't recommend running without a GPS enough. Really forces you to learn your perceived pace.

  4. Tough course, tough conditions, you are a tough mutha effa! Great race Nick. You are giving me the bug just reading about this. Congratulations on completing a bucket list race!

  5. You are AMAZING!!!!! I love the way you powered through your areas of struggle. Lots and lots of people would've quit.

    So... was this a one-time thing, or will you be back next year?

  6. Awesome job, Nick! Congrats on powering through when the going got tough. Sounds like you took a lot from this race that will help you in the future. I can't wait to get my crack at States. Great to meet you as well.

  7. It's inspiring to read your account, Nick. What an excellent job you did on a grueling course. Kudos again!