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Western States 2010 – Lessons Learned

Posted Jun 29 2010 8:22pm

I came to this year’s Western States with three goals in mind. First, simply get to the finish line regardless of time.  Not too exciting for some but the way I see it anything can happen during 100 miles and nothing can be taken for granted out there.  I also knew my two daughters would be waiting for me at the finish and seeing them was number one for me.  Second, beat last year’s time.  Again, not a huge thing but it was something I was thinking going in.  Third, run under 22 hours. 

My third goal was my stretch goal and I chose it a couple of weeks ago after starting my taper.  I felt my conditioning was very good, my training had gone well and I had no injuries.  This would have been 90 minutes faster than my time last year.  I knew all the key aid station splits I needed to hit to achieve this time, and I hit every one—Duncan Canyon (23.8 miles in 4 hours), Robinson Flat (29.7 miles in 5:20), Michigan Bluff (55.7 miles in 11:23) and Forest Hill (62 miles in 12:56).  There was only one problem.  By the time I hit Michigan Bluff, my legs (quads again, surprise!) were toast and I was reduced yet again to a gimp-like shuffle for much of the last 25 miles.    

As the race continued through the night, and my goal of running under 22 hours was slipping away, the situation started to take toll on my mind.  How can my goal slip so quickly from my grasp?  Why did my quads fail me yet again?  What didn’t I do right in my training?  It was then I realized I was running over my head.  Maybe I should’ve set the bar lower.  Despite my perils, my crew and pacer were outstanding.  Rob (pacer), Jeff, Dawn, my wife Jen and two daughters were all there to get me through some rough spots with words of encouragement, nutrition and supplies. 

Another one of my goals this year was to get to the River Crossing (mile 78) during day light.  When my pacer Rob and I left the Cal 3 aid station around 8:30 pm, I remember asking one of the aid station crew how far it was to the River.  When someone said four miles I thought we had a fighting chance to make it by twilight.  But when we were still running after 5 miles (not 4 miles!) and darkness had set in I started to lose it.  I let a few f-bombs fly. 

The night wore on and eventually Rob and forgot how to read a watch.  The race started at 5 am but for some reason we both assumed I had to finish by 4 am to go under 24 hours, let alone beat my time of 23:28 last year.  Not only was my stretch goal out of reach but my second goal (mistakenly) was now in question.  Another mental torpedo.  It’s weird what a full moon and no sleep can do to your mind.  Not realizing we were adding an hour to my actual time, we rolled into Highway 49 (mile 93) around 2:15 am. 

Since I thought I only had 1 hour and 45 minutes left, I pulled up a chair, sat down and said to Rob, Jeff and Dawn I didn’t give a damn what time I came in anymore.  I’d decided I’d had it, and that I wasn’t going make it under 24 hours. I invited everyone to sit and bullshit with me for a while...kind of a mini pity party.  It was then Jeff looked at me with a puzzled face and said I actually still had 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish under 24. Rob and I and looked at each other realizing what we had done wrong and just got up and kept moving.  From then on my focus went from just getting to the finish line to beating my time from last year. 

But enough of that already.  I finished under last years time, and I’m proud of that.  But what I’m most proud of is what happened at the finish line.  As I entered the stadium and rounded the last turn on the track at Placer high school, there stood my two daughters, ages six and eleven, waiting to take my hand and run with me through the finish line.  This was the moment I was waiting for.  The moment I kept visualizing in my mind through the race.  The moment that kept me pushing forward, despite the ups and downs.  As I approached my girls I could see them, smiling, knowing they were about to be part of something pretty cool.  When I reached them I asked them to take my hand, and just like that the three of us ran those final, precious, steps together through the finish line.

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