A few photos from the day and night for my Western States 2010 Experience
I first want to start by saying THANK YOU to my parents and nephew Andrew who came in from Michigan, My Crew-Ken Blankinship and Pacer Darin Loucks being it my first major event like this I never realized how important support is during the race and for that I am thankful. Also I can't forget Cheri and Louis Alverez and all their help at the finish along with all the other volunteers and finally to Mo Bartley for coaching me these last 6 months it went by so fast.
Ok...Let me start by saying that many folks have asked me these last few days if I would do this again and my immediate response is Heck Yes! It was fantastic and in the end my most challenging event I have ever attempted. The week leading up to Western States was very hectic and it took a lot of energy out of me leading to Saturday. My parents and nephew arrived early in the week and thus started the events on how to coordinate my family and crew to get my gear and follow some of the plans I had set. This turned me into a high strung person as I arrived up in Squaw Valley. First the first time ever I was really getting strung out and always feeling I was having to be doing something, being somewhere etc..It was a frantic pace set up for someone that is supposed to be relaxing prior to the longest race of his life. I was short and terse, I was not thinking about the race just trying to make sure every one was being taken care of...Not a good receipe leading to Friday and medical check in...
Friday was great seeing everyone we got the swag which was great a nice day pack, hat, shirt, jacket, moeben sleeves a good haul..now time for the blood pressure check..I saw Chris Perrillo getting his taken..he said his was high..once I sat down in front of Mo who took my blood pressure she said relax..I was strung out! My blood pressure was over the top..gad! So after that me and my Pacer Darin Loucks went to get a bite of lunch after getting my drop bags assembled and dropped off prior to the final meeting. It just felt like go, go, go...never stopping..Darin and I had a beer at lunch and that helped calm me down a bit..I was now tired but ready for the race. We had pre race meal with my parents and then I settled in early to get some sleep..It actually went well leading up to Saturday Morning and my 2:30 wake up for the 5am race start.
We got to the start seeing everyone and wishing everyone a good race, my dad, nephew and pacer where on hand I think they where impressed and excited...I kept calm then the gun went off..It was cool but not cold, dark and ready to hit the first long climb to the escarpement.
I settled in to the back of the pack..I had no idea how I would react to the climb. My nephew Andrew was up ahead and took some pics of me then he went down to be with my dad etc..The climb was steady not really hurting and I suprised myself at how fast it took to get to the first aid station. I started to hydrate and use my s-caps at this point..as we made the summit Craig Thornley's brother was at the top with a gong as we crested..pretty cool. we passed Watsons Monument which gave us our introduction to the snow fields we would encounter for the next 4 or 5 miles. I took time to take a picture of Lake Tahoe and the rising sun..The first downhill was a relief after the climb as we went into single file mode..but the snow set in and that was tough! Very slick and you had to watch your footing, some runners trying to run fast would push and cause other runners to fall..on the downhills I sometimes just fell on my butt and slid down..that seemed the best. My quads could feel this but I kept a steady pace..We made good time I was still in the back but trying to take it easy..it was after all a long day. Pete Korn, Matt Keyes where close by as well they where keeping their heart rates down waiting to move faster later..I hoped I could hang with them. We all chatted a bit and approached the new snow route..I then got stuck behind WS legend Gordy Ansleigh..he is a nice guy but very opinionated and slightly full of himself.. I was aggrevated being close to him and listen to his banter..I moved by him as we hit the first aid. Last I saw of Gordy...
The run on the snow route had some stunning views and steady downhill..I thought I was taking it easy but as I got towards French Meadows I felt a little tired...Trish and Chuck Godfredson where just ahead..we would leap frog most of the day..Both Trish and I where slowing down early but would recover the climb then downhill to Duncan Canyon taught me a lot as we crossed the fast moving but passable duncan creek. It felt cold and refreshing and I saw Chuck in the middle of the creek waiting for Trish..As I reached the other side I had a sudden calf cramp and went down in the stream..Chuck grapped me and got me to shore..he told me to take two s-caps and split em open and pour them on my tongue followed by lots of water..This was nearly instant relieving the cramp and that did not bother me the rest of the day. I took it easy trying to get to Robinson Flat..but the climb out of Duncan was long and hard...We hit more snow as we approached Robinson..I actually arrived at Robinson 15minutes slowner than when I projected 12pm. Darin,Andrew and Ken where there..I am glad since it gave them a chance to see what it was like. I got out fast after I fueled on mtn. dew code red and some food weight was spot on from the start..I forgot about the snow after Robinson and we had that for a while..Chuck and Trish stayed with me on this section out.
With noon now past I did not feel any real high temps and that was nice. Lots of cloud cover though. We had all thinned out some as we ran down from Little Bald Mountain I look back now at this section and feel I took it too easy as we headed towards Last Chance. Perhaps I also was not eating enough but my stomach was solid and weight consistant I was taking manly Roctanes every 45 minutes but sometimes forgot. I was thinking how I needed to have energy for the climb up Devils Thumb..During this section I let Chuck and Trish pass..I was walking more now with running coming every few minutes. Dusty Corners was the first time I saw the 30 hour pace time and I saw I was headed by about 35 minutes I was not too concerned and kept up same effort. I got a chance to run into Last Chance with a very strong runner and I used his pace to keep me moving faster..this helped a lot. I forgot how long the distance was from Last Chance to the downhill to swinging bridge..it seemed like forever to get to swinging bridge.
I was now about 1hour behind where I wanted to be but took a minute to cool off in the waterfall prior to the Devils Thumb Climb. Mike Hernandez was there and took off just head. I could not catch him on the climb I took it easy with 100 steps and 10 second rest..it was about 50 minutes to climb the dt. I enjoyed getting to DT and the aid station..there Chris Iwahashi and George Parrott where hanging out..I sat down for the first time of the day and had my popsicle..It was now 5:30pm.
I was behind and took off I felt ok but was moving slower..I am guessing it was low calorie intake...Deadwood to El Dorado was a long run here I arrived at 7pm where Mike H. was not looking too good at the aid station..I grabbed some orange slices, cooled off then set out to get to my crew and Michigan Bluff..Hard and long is what this climb was..also my low point of the day. as the sun started to set I thought I should stop at MB..but during those dark moments I could not imagine having to tell everyone why I quit. It did not settle well with me to quit..I thought of Dan Moores, my folks etc..and just kept going..Once at MB it was now about 8:15 gad! Ken and Darin where there and they asked if I wanted Darin to pace me from her..I sat down and said yes..it was the right move! I had a little bit of burger, a cherry slushy and then tried to take a roctane..right then I gagged and threw up....I resolved during that time I was heaving that I was not going to quit and wanted to get going. I had told Ken and Darin we would assess my condition at Foresthill but I knew I was not stopping now...
Darin saved me and the run from MB to Bath road was nice and easy which got some of my energy back..It was really buggy then and no stopping allowed as we had on our flashlights. We got to Volcano Creek and saw two guys crossing in the dark..One dude tried to go too fast and landed flat on his face in the creek...eeeash. We then all set out climbing to Bath. Funny thing about running all night we would pass folks or come up on the side and someone would say..hey is that you Tony? I did not recall who they where a lot but I guess I am a known face in the world of running..it felt good.
As we got to Foresthill..time 10:15 (about 1:15 behind where I wanted to be), I had to stop and use the inside restroom..I say this that toilet seat felt great! I did not want to leave but I picked myself up and met Ken and Darin outside to change shoes and socks..I had a few small blisters but did not want to get em treated since I wanted to gain some time. We where in FH for about 10 minutes and it was hard on the legs and getting moving again was hard..Darin was leading a good pace staying out front.
We settled into the long night with a little talking now and then but mostly silence. We tried to stay clear of any long trains of runners and actually would pass a few..I hated leap frogging but I was not strong enough to keep them away. Darin seemed to be enjoying the whole experience. I kept thinking during that time how I was pacing Rena last year along the same sections of course..I felt stronger now than last year but we where behind time.
Cal1 to Cal2 and impail trail where pretty good sections but I had settled back into a consistant pattern of run then walk...Darin was fueling me and reminding me to take a s-cap. I was starting to gain some weight slowly..now up about 1.5lbs. I so enjoyed the silence and the thoughts to myself..I wondered where some of my friends where on the course and what normal people like Kaori where doing on a late Saturday night..I felt in my place. The climbs where hard and long but not bad now. Darin was running for the first time at night ever and he was doing great...I was happy for him too bad we where not going to be at the river at 2am.
We got to the river at 3:30am we where looking for Darin Farmer who was volunteering at the river. But they got us in the boats really fast. The boat was filled with runners and I never got a chance to look around a lot..we where on Far Side in no time and off on the climb to Green Gate. I felt now we could start smelling the barn..someone else came up along side of me and knew me..I can't recall her but she said we had it in the bag..just needed to run 18 miles in 6 hours..That was on my mind now.
Green Gate to Alt seemed long even though I know this section well. I was slowing and walking a lot..We kept referencing a comment by Ken Crouse when we saw him at FH..he said walk but walk with a purpose. That is what we did! Finally at ALT as I was getting weighed the women started asking me too many questions about how I was feeling and if I knew what day it was..I looked at her thinking..Lady your crazy..I am in no way stopping now! Darin later said he was concerned for a brief time at ALT...I was not eating a lot and the sun was starting to rise...Maybe our best section came leading to Browns..Darin set the pace and wanted to bank some time..we where moving fast with short walk breaks..I felt like he was pushy me just right...It hurt but I had to respond. We where gonna make it!
The sun was now up we hit Browns Bar at 7:30am...EEEESCH a long day of running..I wanted to get out fast grabbed some coke and left..Darin had a beer at the hashers aid station and we started talking about the next section. Heading down Brown to Quarry Trail I told him lets run as much as we can since there is a lot of climbing to HWY 49 we did that but I also had to stop and get my breathing down a bit. I had on my mind what time we would be at HWY 49 and the last medical checkpoint..I wanted to be on weight and not held up for any reason.
We hit 49 just fine..no time for the breakfast or smoothy..The women that took my weight said I was up 3lbs. and to get out of here fast and finish the race..Good Advice! Right as we got out of the aid we start the climb up F and A hill. to the valley and downhill..My lower back started hurting duing the climb. We had to stop a few times on the climb. It felt insulting after all this time to have my back hurting on this climb. Still we pushed on..Darin took the downhill to NoHands well. We passed a lot of runners..Darin would later say I was pushing him....NoHands Looked so great! We got there about 9:25...We where gonna make it...As I crossed the bridge we where grouped up with other runners we all commented we where gonna get the buckles..But I still did not feel good about my back and just kept walking. As we started the last steep climb on single track my back was wrecked! Darin told me to tough it out and keep moving. I let folks pass me..We finally crested Robie and the aid station and grabbed ice and put it on my back...
From Robie..It was all business but first I wanted to take time out to take a drink at the drinking fountain on robie drive..to honor the course and folks that live in the neighborhood that put up with us. Ken and Andrew finally appeared they did not want to hike up all the hills so met us near the fountain..I said where the heck have you been..and gave them my pack and finally felt good that we had it in the bag. Its all kinda hazy after this..just take it to the track..I recall seeing June and a few others then bame the track! I was inside happy Cheri Alverez was screaming and taking pics...She had my medal..I wondered where my parents where..I told Darin to stay with me then to peel off..We saw his sister in law on the far corner taking pics of us..I was so close..I heard my name called out FINALLY I was GONNA GET MY BUCKLE! 29 hours 34 minutes. I hit the line..It was awesome. I looked around for my folks they where there..got a fast hug then off to medical..I starting hurting as soon as I sat down.
Post race I let my folks head back to the hotel..Darin and Ken came back later and I was hanging out cooking in the sun sitting in a chair..I was a wreck. But somehow I cleaned up changed clothes and went to the awards tent..I have my buckle now. It was a long day. I have never been so happy all I want to do is relax and enjoy this moment. But I had some family things to take care of and the stress stayed high until Thursday.
This is not the most descriptive post but it was a very enjoyable event..The training, the people, the sierras, the course, the whole thing..so special to me...
I hope to race it again and I am now honored to have a Western States Buckle!