Western States 100
Last month we went to the Western States 100 to crew and pace for Molly’s sister (Kerrie Bruxvoort – Team Salomon). The entire experience is amazing. This race has so much history yet most of the figures that made this rich history are still involved and visible. I have never been to a race where there is such a high level of respect for the entire event. The aid stations each have a rich history of their own, the crews have came to participate from around the world, and each of the runners is realizing a far fetched dream by participating.
Starting off the trip we were exhausted. Part of endurance racing is the packing, traveling, and gear involved to get to the starting line. Molly and I had volunteered at the open water swim on Thursday night and got a late start on packing our gear. Finally getting to bed at sometime between midnight and one AM we were up again at 4:00 to head to the airport. I must stop to say that the drive into Squaw Valley is beautiful and I would love to spend a few days exploring the area. Once we arrived at the race start we proceeded directly to the raffle tent to purchase tickets for an entry into the race next year. No luck in the raffle but I already have a qualifying run for the lottery this year and there will be more raffles. Temperatures were high and there was limited shade at the race briefing making for an uncomfortable group. Western States singles out the top qualifiers for the race and brings each up infront of the crowd and talks a little about each one. Very interesting to see these guys in civillian clothes. Gordy Ainsleigh the man that first attempted and completed the race gave a few words of inspiration. After the usual do this not that of race briefings we were off to connect with Kerrie and eat some pizza to fuel up for the race. Once we returned to the condo at about 5:00 we both fell asleep and slept until 4:30 the next morning.
The race start of the WS100 is a very interesting place there is so much pent up energy that it feels like the world might explode, but explode very slowly. Participants and their crews know they are going to be working for the next 15 to 30 hours to get to the finish line 100.2 miles away. Amazingly the shotgun blasts and these runners start sauntering up the mountain side and the crews head off to do various tasks. Some hurry to the next crew point to aid their runner, some go get their gear ready for the day, and some (us) go back to sleep knowing it is going to be a long night!!!
Molly and I slept as long as we dared then gathered and organized our gear and headed to get food and water supplies for the day. We had an awesome smorgasbord of fruits, hummus, veggies, and lunch meat to get us through the day. Once loaded up we headed off to the Michigan Bluff aid station to wait for our runner and hopefully get to see some of the early leaders come through. While waiting we met a guy who happend to be from Lincoln (small world) and chatted for a bit trying to find some shade. Side note – the hamburgers as Michigan Bluff are cooked on a home made steel griddle and are out of this world. After a bit of waiting Kerrie came through and we found out that she had bruised her ankle on a rock and her shoe had been hitting on it for quite some time. Medical staff at the aid station cut a section out of the shoe and sent her on her way. Physically she seemed to be in great shape and the pain may have helped her limit the effort she put out early in the race. With her on her way we raced off to Foresthill.
Parking at forest hill is a bit tricky, there is not much of a shoulder and not a lot of parking lots. We quickly found a spot and set up camp so I could start getting my gear and nutrition ready to start my pacing duties. Knowing that I could be running for the next 10 to 15 hours I was diligently taking my time to thoughtfully pick each piece of gear and nutrition that I may need and where it would be stored. While placing my nutrition in my shorts pocket and taking a test jog without shoes on, I happen to look up and see Kerrie about 100 yards away and moving fast. Uh Oh time to grab and go. Luckily the test jog was a success and all my gear was ready. Molly tended to Kerrie as I gathered my handhelds and laced up my shoes. Heading out of the Foresthill aid station we met up with one of Kerrie’s teammates and headed out of town.
The section of the race from Foresthill to Rucky Chucky is pretty much 16 miles of gradual downhill. It was all very runnable and had great views. Pacing for me is all about being steady, watching for trail markings, monitoring your runner, and being a source of positive motivation. So for the next 38 miles that exactly what I did. Western States trail is really easy to navigate, I only saw one turn where the marking was not great, but if you paid attention you still knew exactly where to go.
Not much to say about the experience on the trail. It is a great trail that is very runnable and seemed to be very pretty. I only had about an hour of sunlight to enjoy the views and they were majestic. From there is was one foot in front of the other on the path in front of me. A couple of points I do remember. Walking the couple of miles up the hill out of Rucky Chucky is a great place to recharge a little and get some good calories and hydration in. The last mile leading up to Highway 49 crossing is a relentless climb that does not seem to have an end. Best aid stations i have ever seen. I know I have said it about other runs and will say it again after Run Rabbit Run but you can always tell when the aid stations are being put together by runners.
Probably leaving out tons of info that I had intended to cover but time to get this post out there.