Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 WSER - Chapter 5: Post Race

After the race, runners are whisked from medical check to blood draw to urine sample. The blood draw is done to measure five kidney-function related values: Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), Creatinine, Creatine Phosphokinase (CPK), Sodium, and Potassium. All my values were in the normal range except my CPK was high (7300), which is not unusal after a 100 just don't want it to be too high...then you're talking about scary stuff like kidney failure. In a way, it's also a measure of whether you've pushed yourself beyond your training. I feel like my CPK said I pushed myself, but not beyond my training. Andy Jones-Wilkins has a really good story about slower or train harder!
From the Western States website, "CPK is a measure of muscle protein breakdown. A normal CPK ranges from around 50 to almost 200. Vigorous exercise such as a hard run or a long hike or a strenuous football practice will elevate CPK's to 500-1000 or more with no side effects other than achy muscles. However, in prolonged extremely strenuous exercise (such as running the WSER 100), CPK's will be elevated anywhere from a few thousand to several hundred thousand units! The higher CPK's will be associated with severe muscle pain, nausea, weakness, "flu-like symptoms", dark urine (Coca Cola colored) and other unpleasant symptoms. Rest and vigorous rehydration with a variety of fluids such as water, electrolyte drinks, juice, soda, etc. generally will clear the markedly elevated CPK's within a few days. The higher the CPK, the more likely the kidneys will become plugged up and impair kidney function. Anyone with a CPK above 40,000 should follow up with a physician within a day or two for repeat blood work. However, if the urine output is diminished or the color is not clearing or you are gaining weight or you are feeling worse as time passes instead of feeling better, you should see a physician promptly." Yikes!
After all the testing I sat down on the grass and it wasn't long before I started to get really I put on my dad's shirt, Andy's hat, and then two sleeping bags on top of me. Now I was laying down, all covered up, and I wanted to put my compression socks on. I have to give Andy a big thanks for doing this for couldn't have been very pleasant down there. I laid there for a little while, but we needed to get out of there so we could all get some sleep...most of the crew was driving home that day. At this point we all went our separate ways. I was able to get up and shuffle over to the car...Tonya drove the kids and me back to our hotel room. We all slept till about 10:00, then ordered breakfast from room service. I remember being surprised that I didn't really feel tired. I took a felt really good to be clean...and Tonya took the kids swimming while I went to the awards presentation. Let me just say, the buckle looks really's definitely one of the coolest things I've ever received. That night we all went swimming, then had pizza for dinner. And the next morning we packed everything up and headed home. It was a much tougher drive home for the kids than for me. I was pretty sore, but sitting in and driving the car was no problem. It was quite a relief to finally make it home.
It's funny how a little time can change your thinking after a tough race. During the race I had the thought several times, I don't need to do this again...but not more than a few days after the race I was thinking, I know I will.

Friday, September 23, 2011

2011 WSER - Chapter 4: The Race

"100s are HARD." -- Craig Thornley

I was definitely a little nervous leading up to my first 100 miler...I was untested at the distance and I wasn't sure how I would respond. The training went pretty well, but I never ran much more than 50 miles continuously and neither run went real well. On top of that, I had never ever run more than 62 miles continuously and the one time I did it was a major sufferfest that included a lot of walking. There was some doubt...I felt like I was taking a leap of faith. There was also some pressure...I felt like Western States could be a once in a lifetime experience for me and because of that I wanted it to go well...I felt like I had to run sub-24 hours. As the race drew near, I was really anxious to get started...maybe not as anxious as this guy, though. Can you find me in the second video?

Squaw Valley to Escarpment: 0.0-3.5 miles
So we were off...I remember I felt relieved to finally get started. I had situated myself somewhere in the middle of the pack. My hope was to not be near anyone I knew! I wanted to run my own race. I was concerned about starting too fast...and I was not going to pass anyone unnecessarily...I kept telling myself to be patient. Sometimes, even in a long distance race, I get impatient when following people and waste a lot of energy trying to get around them. I had heard you should treat the first part of the race like a long training run. So I was trying to do that...trying to really enjoy myself...taking it all in...this is Western freaking States!
The start of the race is very's just after 5:00 AM and the sun is beginning to rise, you're climbing from 6200 to 8750 feet up a mountain, as you get higher you can look back and see Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains in the distance, and you can also see a train of runners stretched out in front and behind you. James Elson, a runner from Great Britain, captured a few sections of the race on video. They're pretty good for giving a feel for what it was like.

It did feel a little weird to take a gel after just 30 minutes of hiking, but Meghan had told me to come up with a fueling plan and stick to it religiously. And it seemed like the one piece of advice I heard over and over again was eat early and often. I wanted to keep my plan as simple as possible...I decided I would take a gel every 30 minutes and add in pork and beans as my "real" food. I carried a couple small cans with me and had more in my drop bags. I was also taking one S!Cap an hour. My fueling was very good early on, but degraded later in the race. All told, I think I took over 30 gels.

Escarpment to Talbot: 3.5-13.0 miles
We went up and over the top and actually got some snow free trail for a little bit. That was nice because the rest of this section was almost entirely snow and ice. It was pretty slow going and I remember thinking how much faster it would be on clear trail. There was so much snow this year that we were detoured off the normal course...however, this still meant about 13 miles of running on snow. I have a little experience running on snow, but I wouldn't say I'm real good at it...I fell down many times. But I didn't mind the snow, I thought it was actually kind of fun...especially the glissading. You could definitely tell who had and had not ever run on it...the guy from Texas in front of experience. I did mind the ice. There were a few treacherous sections on ice...descending or traversing a steep slope. Everyone was taking it slow, but it looked like there were still some pretty bad wipeouts...there was blood on the ice. I was actually wishing I had worn gloves because my hands were taking a beating.
When we finally reached the aid station I remember someone being very concerned about the mileage...they wanted to talk to whoever was in charge. The original estimate for the Talbot aid station was 15 miles, but my Garmin, and likely his too, was well short of that. I just assumed that my Garmin was off...let's see...15 miles in 3 hours...that's 12 minute/mile pace...pretty good considering the conditions! Later it was determined the aid station was at about 13 miles...this made more sense. James Elson captured the creek crossing and a little of the snow just before reaching the aid sounds like he had some trouble in the snow in his road shoes. The creek crossing was knee deep and pretty cold. Not sure why he's worried about missing cut-offs because he's only 6 minutes behind me at this point.

Talbot to Poppy: 13.0-19.6 miles
It was nice to be done with the snow for a while and get some real running in...this section was all on gravel road with a little pavement at the end. It was also relatively flat. I was watching my heartrate closely here and purposely holding back...this was definitely a section I could have run faster. For the first bit I ran with a guy wearing a PCT 100 miler shirt. I asked him about his race and then I told him about my experience volunteering at the Ollalie Lake aid station. This was my first experience at a 100 mile was eye opening. People came through our aid station twice...once after 50+ miles and once after 70+ miles...what a difference. The first time through everyone is happy and smiling...the second time through I'm thinking to myself, "why are you doing this to yourself?" Now here I was doing it to myself. He dropped back and I ended up running the rest of the way with a lady from Australia...her pace was right where I wanted to be to keep my heartrate near target. It was on a gravel road, but it wasn't a bad stretch...I was enjoying the scenery and the shade.

Poppy to Duncan Canyon: 19.6-23.8 miles
At the Poppy aid station I had my first drop bag. I remember really fumbling around with my stuff, trying to reload my pack...I'm going to have to work on that. The aid station volunteer was very patient...he stayed with me until I was all taken care of and ready to go. As I was downing a can of pork and beans, I started calculating how many calories I had taken in versus how many calories my Garmin said I had conclusion was that I was doing really well on fueling. The best part was my stomach felt great. I ditched my arm panties and took the time to put some sunscreen was starting to get warm.
Heading out of Poppy was nice because it was some of the first snow free runnable singletrack trail of the day. The trail followed the edge of a reservoir and was picturesque enough for the professional photographer to be taking pictures here. At one point on the trail I tried to jump a small creek and ended up landing with one foot in the water...I had to stop and unload all the debris from my shoe. The last bit of this section was an exposed climb up to Duncan was definitely getting warm. Regardless of everything slowing me down, from Poppy, I began to slowly move up in the field.

Duncan Canyon to Mosquito Ridge: 23.8-31.0 miles
I felt good for almost this entire section. Duncan Canyon was a really good aid station...there was a lot of energy and I felt like I fed off it. I got refueled, sponged off, and was ready to make my way up to Mosquito Ridge. The aid station theme at Duncan Canyon was Back to the Future and as I was leaving I noticed a sign that said, "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." Well, we did need a few...heck, there was even one stretch of paved road on this section...a steep downhill followed by a steep uphill that just seemed foolish to try to run up. Several people were and I had to say something out loud to a guy walking near me...something like, "they're crazy." Throughout the entire race I feel like I never questioned whether a section was runnable...I always felt like I knew if I should be hiking or running. When we got back off the road I remember descending a bit then starting a long climb up to Mosquito Ridge. For most of the climb I felt hiking felt really strong, I was passing people...outhiking them. But it was the last bit of the climb that really got was a little steeper and I got worked...I probably pushed a bit too hard.

Mosquito Ridge to Miller's Defeat: 31.0-35.3 miles
I'd say I hit my first low just as I was rolling into Mosquito Ridge for the first medical check. My weight was down and the aid station volunteers seemed a little concerned...they wanted me to eat and especially drink more. But other than feeling a little whipped from the climb, it seemed like I was doing OK.
When the course changes were announced before the race, I remember thinking this section was running us back in the wrong direction, a couple miles away from was an out-and-back. And I didn't realize it at the time, but as I was leaving Mosquito Ridge, I could see Miller's Defeat. As I headed out I felt like I was barely moving and the longer the out portion went on, the worse I felt. But I started to feel better on the back portion...maybe it was a psychological thing...I was just happy to be feeling good again. Another runner and I discussed the "rustic" trail that connected the out and back portions of this section because it was specifically highlighted in the pre-race certainly wasn't a real trail. I remember patches of snow throughout this section, but it seemed like they could be avoided for the most part.

Miller's Defeat to Dusty Corners: 35.3-38.0 miles
Getting to Miller's Defeat was a bit of a big deal because I knew we were done with the snow and we were finally getting back on the original course. This was a nice runnable downhill section that went pretty fast...only 29 minutes for me, 22 minutes for Kilian.

Dusty Corners to Last Chance: 38.0-43.3 miles
As I was heading out of Dusty Corners, I made a point to check where I was at with respect to 24 hour pace. I was a little over 7:30 in and 24 hour pace at Dusty Corners was 7:55...this was a little too close for comfort for me and I started to get nervous. But the nerves gave me some energy and I was able to pick up the pace. This was also the point where I think I became very focused. I remember thinking any time I run a mile under 14 minutes, I'm gaining time.
The scenery on this section was impressive...part of it was up on a ridge overlooking a river canyon. There were several good viewpoints...even a waterfall in the distance.

Last Chance to Devil's Thumb: 43.3-47.8 miles
In this section we headed down to the river...gradually at first, then it got steeper. At the bottom of the canyon we crossed over a bridge and began, what seemed like, the toughest climb on the course. I was surprised how tough it was...going into the race, I underestimated it. Not sure why I would have since, according to the elevation profile, it's about 1300 feet of gain in less than a mile! At the bottom of the climb a guy was dunking his shirt in a little water source and he was advising others to do the same, so I did. On the way up, I listened to my was a nice distraction and seemed to help. When I finally got to the top I was totally out of gas. There's actually a short video of me on the webcast asking if the climb up to Michigan Bluff was going to be that steep! The answer was no, but it's longer.

Devil's Thumb to El Dorado Creek: 47.8-52.9 miles
This section was almost entirely downhill...down into another canyon. Early on it was slightly rolling and I remember thinking about the sub-24 hour finish...I knew I had to keep pushing...this meant running everything that was "runnable". The rest of the section was a fairly gradual descent, but I remember some of it being very jarring. The trail was a little technical and it was tough for me to run smoothly. It was also a very long stretch of downhill, so by the end my legs were really feeling it. Somewhere in the middle of this section I passed Jill Perry. Sean Meissner would be pacing her from Foresthill to the finish and he had predicted that we would battle each other all day...we did.

El Dorado Creek to Michigan Bluff: 52.9-55.7 miles
By the time I got down to El Dorado Creek I was pretty whipped and the aid station volunteers seemed a little concerned about me. Apparently I wasn't looking so hot and I had a bit of a bloody nose. They cleaned me up and draped a wet towel over me which felt great. I told them I was doing fine, but I also admitted I felt like I was starting to have some blister issues. They recommended waiting until Michigan Bluff to attend to them. In the end I waited until Foresthill since I had decided I was going to change my shoes and socks there. Getting up to Michigan Bluff involved another long climb...about 1700 feet over 2.8 miles. I remember it started off pretty well, then I started to fall apart towards the end. But as I got closer to the top I was getting really excited to finally see some of my crew! Kristin came running out to meet me. My dad and Andy Stallings were also there.

Michigan Bluff to Bath Road: 55.7-60.6 miles
From the pictures below you can see I came into Michigan Bluff and got weighed...I was down about 5 pounds, as I was pretty much all day. After the medical check I kind of felt like I had to take care of myself...they were definitely not as attentive as the previous aid stations. I had some pork and beans, sponged myself off, and asked for some chicken was very hot and tasted watered down. After a brief chat with the crew, I took to keep moving...I still wasn't totally comfortable with where I was at time-wise. This section headed up and then down into another canyon...I kind of forgot about this one...I was really focused on getting to Foresthill.

Bath Road to Foresthill: 60.6-62.0 miles
This section began with a fairly steep climb on the road, followed by the familiar trail toward Foresthill. I remembered this trail from last year...waiting here for Cameron Hanes. His splits from last year's race were a target of mine for my race this year, but I was quite a ways behind when I finally rolled into Foresthill...36 minutes to be exact. I thought maybe I could continue to make up time past Foresthill, though. My entire crew was waiting here for me. As you can see, William was really fired up and ran me into the aid station.

Foresthill to Cal 1 62.0-65.7 miles
At Foresthill I changed my socks and shoes...this felt really good. I was starting to get blisters on the inside of each foot at the base of my big toe. I asked for some tape for my feet and got athletic tape...this wasn't great, but it did the job. One of the aid station volunteers came over once the taping was nearly done and said they could do a better job if I wanted to wait, but he understood my desire to hurry up and get out of there...sub-24 hours was within reach. William sponged me off as I got my socks and shoes on. Spending all that time in the aid station I remember feeling really anxious to get going again...I definitely regret that I didn't acknowledge my crew a little better when I headed out. Ella didn't even get a very good high-five and was a little upset about it! Looking back, I think I was just really focused on the task at hand...I felt really good with the new socks, shoes, and pacer and wanted to get going. I knew there was a lot of runnable terrain coming as we headed down toward the river.
I was on a pretty big high coming out of Foresthill and I feel like I ran this section really well. As we got out of town and back onto the trail we had company...the Slovenian. He didn't have a pacer and I believe he said he would be the first from his country to finish Western States. He hung with us for quite a while, but we eventually dropped him...we would see him again, though.

Cal 1 to Cal 2 65.7-70.7 miles
After all that nice downhill from Foresthill, this section was noticeably more rolling and seemed long...I still felt pretty good, but was definitely coming off my high. I remember being a little surprised when Jill and Sean came flying by...surprised because I thought I was moving better than I guess I was. And as they pulled ahead Sean gave us a full moon! This led to some good back and forth between Sean and William, but they were out of sight pretty quickly so it didn't last too long. At that moment I didn't think we would see them again.

Cal 2 to Cal 3 70.7-73.0 miles
From Foresthill down to the river, a lot of things were generally going downhill...the elevation...this section in particular was relatively short with a lot of downhill, my pace was definitely dropping off as we got closer to the river, my memory...I remember a lot more detail from the first half of the race than the second half, the conversation...when I'm hurting I start talking even less...I think at one point I may have even requested one word answer questions!
At Cal 3, I remember one of the aid station volunteers saying to William, "get your runner to the river." William was doing a great job of keeping me positive with a lot of encouragement. He was also on top of my fueling, almost exclusively gels and SCaps now, and he was really riding me to keep draining my bottles between aid stations. I needed to stay hydrated...I didn't want to get stuck at an aid station if my weight was too low. I'm not sure it really helped, but there were actually a couple times that I even waited to pee until after the medical checks!

Cal 3 to Rucky Chucky Near 73.0-78.0 miles
This is the section where I feel like I really lost it...for the first time. It was starting to get dark and I hit a pretty big low. I felt like I was barely moving and I was getting discouraged because the terrain was very runnable. Too bad that deer we spotted wasn't a bear...maybe it would have gotten a little adrenaline flowing! It got dark enough during this section that I ended up needing a headlamp. And it was completely dark by the time we reached the river.

Rucky Chucky Near to Rucky Chucky Far 78.0-78.1 miles
Jason and Kane were waiting for us on the near side of the river. Other than sitting down, getting my headlamp on, and ditching my pack, I really have no memory of what happened here...definitely no memory of anything that was said. I don't know if anyone could tell, but I felt really out of it...I was in a daze. It seemed like there were all these bright lights, lots of people, and it was noisy...but I could be wrong.
So we got in a boat to cross the was a high water year. I do remember them asking if it was OK to wait for another runner to get in the boat with us...what was I going to say, no? I don't remember being in a big hurry at that point...I'm sure I was happy to just be sitting down. And I certainly wasn't racing anyone at this point...I was just trying to get to the finish. If I run Western States again I really want to cross the river in the water and do so in the daylight.

Rucky Chucky Far to Green Gate 78.1-79.8 miles
When I got out of the boat I was pretty shaky, but I got back on solid ground and started walking up to Green Gate. I did not feel like running any part of the uphill...there were definitely a couple spots where it flattened out and I could have...William could not convince me. On the way up I noticed my lower back was starting to hurt. We missed the other half of our crew at Green Gate...turns out they ended up getting on the wrong shuttle bus in Cool.

Green Gate to Auburn Lake Trails 79.8-85.2 miles
I can't remember exactly what I ate at the Green Gate aid station, but the result was my best section of running in the dark. Just a few minutes out of the aid station I got this incredible boost of energy...I was running everything, even the ups, and it felt like I was flying. Not only did I suddenly have all this energy, but all the pain was seemingly gone back, in particular, felt fine. The whole idea that this can happen in a long distance race is hard to believe, but very cool to was actually very similar to the feeling I had at Corban College. William and I were talking about how I was going to come down off the high and crash eventually, so I really tried to take advantage of it...I felt like I was going nearly as fast as I could, considering I still had over 15 miles to go. By the time we got close to ALT, I was definitely coming down.

Auburn Lake Trails to Brown's Bar 85.2-89.9 miles
At ALT we figured I would just drink some more Coke and chicken broth and I'd perk right back up, but unfortunately I never could get that good feeling back. I also started experiencing a really weird sensation while running this section...if I took too long of a stride, my whole foot would get a numb, tingly feeling...I was thinking, is this bad? It was a tough section for me because I was hurting and I believe it was in this section that I finally broke down and started asking William how much further to the next aid station. He was keeping careful track of the distance between aid stations with his Garmin and he had his fancy cheat sheet from pacing Cameron Hanes last year with all the details on the terrain of each section. He had talked a lot about Brown's Bar, so I was excited to get there. James Elson got some video of his approach.

Brown's Bar to Highway 49 89.9-93.5 miles
If only I felt like partying...this was the place to do it. I sat down again while William got me some more Coke and chicken broth. Once I got that down we headed out. After a pretty good downhill it flattend out for a bit and I believe it was somewhere in here that we caught Jill and Sean. Now it was William's turn for a full moon...I'm pretty sure this happened. It looked like Jill was having a low and I felt bad about it, but passing those guys definitely gave me a boost. We started up a pretty tough climb before dropping down to Highway 49...I was surprised at how tough it was, but I felt like I was hiking pretty well. Then I finally puked...Craig Thornley told me I would. I was a little surprised that I stomach wasn't really bothering me too bad. I guess that gel I took just didn't agree with me. In general, I was pleasantly surprised at how well my stomach did do for the entire was one of my biggest fears going in. After it happened I still felt OK, so we just kept rolling.

Highway 49 to No Hands Bridge 93.5-96.8 miles
The Highway 49 aid station was kind of a blur...again there were lots of lights and people. I remember my weight was actually up slightly from where it had been most of the day. This was good because we wanted to get in and out of there quickly...William wanted a sub-23 hour finish for me and I think it was definitely possible at that point. I was out of the aid station just before 2:00, so my thinking was I had 3 hours to go 6.7 miles...I felt like sub-24 hours was in the bag. We could both smell the barn.
Besides a cup of chicken broth that I had trouble getting down, I don't think I took anything else...I don't even remember having any Coke...maybe I did. Heading out of the aid station, there was a short climb. By the time we got to the top, things really started to fall apart for me...I was running out of gas. I felt like I was barely was more like stumbling. From here, there was a pretty good downhill to No Hands Bridge and I did not enjoy it...with every step I took, I was making all kinds of was very painful and my energy levels had almost completely bottomed out. Then the Slovenian caught me just before we reached the bridge...the whole situation was very discouraging.

No Hands Bridge to Robie Point 96.8-98.9 miles
At No Hands Bridge I didn't really feel like taking anything because my stomach was bothering me now...I couldn't even get much chicken broth down. Crossing the bridge I felt really shaky and light-headed. On the other side we started to climb and it wasn't too long before my forward progress came to a grinding halt. It was at a point in the trail where it split...I went to the right and there were these huge steps that I could barely make. I was really unsteady. Once I made it up these steps I felt like I had to sit down and gather myself or I was going to fall down. I'd guess we were less than 2.5 miles from the finish and I was sitting down! There was even a nice log to sit on right on the side of the trail. As I was sitting there I realized I really needed to eat something, so I started sucking on a gel...I also realized I really needed to take a crap for the first time all day! So I dropped my shorts and went right off the back of the log. Then as I looked around for something to wipe with, William takes off his shoe and gives me one of his socks...this guy is my best friend!
I don't have any idea how long I sat there...I remember asking William what time it was at one point, but I was never concerned about missing sub-24 hours...I knew I would still make it. People seemed to be streaming by. It wasn't long before Jill and Sean passed us...I think this may have helped give me the motivation to finally get up and hike to Robie Point. I can't believe it was this section where the bear was causing trouble...the whole time it felt like we were just a few steps from being in town.

Robie Point to Placer High School 98.9-100.2 miles
Throughout my training, any time I would experience adversity, I thought to myself, "the end of the race is going to be so much tougher than this." Turns out I was right! I was relieved to finally make it to Robie Point because I thought the climbing was over...I was wrong...there was still a pretty steep uphill on pavement. Kane and Jason were waiting here and hiked up the hill with us. Once we were over the hill, I started to shuffle the downhill because I just wanted to be done! At about 1 mile to go a few people on the side of the road offered some encouragement...turns out it was Andy, Kristin, and Tonya. Once they joined us I had a group of 6 people surrounding me on that last mile...I was getting emotional...there were so many people supporting me...I felt very lucky. Every step hurt at this point...I remember really getting a jolt in my knees with every impact. Finally the entrance to the track was in view...the kids and my mom joined me on the dad was taking pictures. As I was making my way around the track, the announcer was saying some stuff about me...the only thing I really remember was him giving me grief for finishing almost 5 hours behind fellow Corvallis resident Meghan Arbogast!
The pictures below really tell the story of how I was feeling...look at the expression on my face as I approached the finish line...that is an amazing cross between pleasure and pain! And then nothing but happiness and satisfaction after crossing the finish line in 23:27:33. What an experience...thanks so much to my family, my friends, all the volunteers, and everyone associated with the race for a great experience. I'll never forget it.

Credit: Facchino Photography