Sean O’Brien Race Report

Following the Bandera 100k in January, my recovery (1 week) and training started clicking back into place.  Had 4 tough road workouts with my Team Rogue mates, 3 massages, a steady 18-miler, and a 2 ½ hour bike ride out on Parmer Lane leading into the inaugural Sean O’Brien 50k on February 1 in sunny and gorgeous Malibu, California.  I had heard that RD Keira Henninger puts on amazing races and this one would turn out to be no different!

Meredith and I flew out on Friday morning, grabbed some groceries, checked in to the hotel, enjoyed a quick shake-out run at the race site at Malibu Creek State Park, and then a fantastic easy swim at the Westlake Athletic Club, as Meredith did a long swim, before hitting packet pickup and finally enjoying some pre-race dinner.  Leadville 100 stud Michael Aish and his wife Nicole joined us briefly for some pre-race discussion, and then it was off to bed!

My goal going into the 50k was to run the race that I SHOULD HAVE run in Bandera, where I went out way too fast and paid the price.  The cool breezy morning, steep climbs out of the chute, and out and back course made this an ideal venue to “recalibrate” my race effort.  All systems were “go” and I smartly did not get sucked into the early fast pace of both the 50k and 26m runners, both of which started at 7am.  Wore a thin pair of gloves for maybe the first 30-45 minutes and then I didn’t need them anymore.  Quickly refilled a water bottle at aid station #2 (mile 11), and then made up some spots cruising through aid station #3 where some runners had drop bags.  The turnaround at mile 15.5 was supposed to have water but didn’t;  luckily I had been nursing one of my two bottles and made it back to aid station #5 (mile 18) none the worse for wear.  Believe I was somewhere in the top-5 at this point and within striking distance of 4th and 3rd, so I buckled down on the 2 mile stretch to aid station #6 (mile 20) and ran really strong all the way to the finish, absolutely LOVING the long downhill stretches and views of the coastline that came with it.  We don’t get long descents like that in Texas!!!   My finish time of 4:25:57 was only about a 2 minute positive split so I was really happy with my effort.

Meredith smartly opted for the 26M run, after being sick, as one of her last “long” runs before Ultraman Florida in 3 weeks, so I got to see her on the trail in between aid station #5 and #6.  She was running GREAT, and finished as the 2nd place woman!  The finish line post-race spread was absolutely fantastic, with plenty of food, drink, friends, sunshine and photos to go around.  (need to find some photos and get them posted, maybe they are somewhere in the facebook cloud?)

Up next, it’s my turn to be ultra-sherpa at Ultraman Florida, can’t wait to support my wife in her epic journey like she has for me SO many times!!!   Thanks for reading y’all.

P.S. Definitely put next year’s SOB on your race calendar, especially if you need a mid-winter break from some dysfunctional weather!!! J

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Bandera 2014

This race report has been brewing and stewing for the better part of 2+ weeks.  I should be over the moon on cloud nine after just turning 40 in December and earning my first masters national title and running a 100km PR, right?  HA, the irony of life!  Howard Jones has sung about it, even Alanis Morissette.  No matter how many times I slice and dice it, rationalize it, strategize it, replay it, etc., the truth of the matter is I went out too fast.  There, I said it.  Precisely, 16 seconds per mile too fast in the first 5 miles, and 23 seconds per mile too fast in the subsequent 5 miles.  That was enough to put me 3 ½ minutes ahead of my intended time with over 50 miles to run, and enough to ensure that I would give ALL of it back and THEN some.  The morning was TOO PERFECT and the running was TOO GOOD early on and I got carried away.  Big-Lesson-Learned.  Jorge Maravilla, David Laney, and Chikara Omine flat-out dominated the course and ran near-perfect races. 2014-01-11 07.25.452014-01-11 07.24.442014-01-11 08.51.27

Huge kudos to David Hanenburg and Endurance Buzz for compiling this sweet pre-race program http://endurancebuzz.com/2014/01/08/2014-bandera-trail-run-preview/ , post-race recap: http://endurancebuzz.com/2014/01/21/bandera-trail-run-2014-results-jorge-maravilla-and-meghan-arbogast-earn-100k-wins-in-the-sun-and-sotol-fun-of-south-texas/ , and Bonus Q&A including some play-by-play of how the rest of the day unfolded: http://endurancebuzz.com/2014/01/21/2014-bandera-trail-run-bonus-qa-with-meghan-arbogast-paul-terranova-liza-howard-and-ford-smith/

Rick Kent, Craig Mitchell, and the EnduroPhoto team captured some great images: http://www.backprint.com/view_user_event.asp?PID=bp%18sA&EVENTID=122419&PWD=0&LAST=terranova&BIB=16

Thanks also for the mighty Roy Pirrung for his USATF representation, doling out the medals, patches, checks, and his summary: http://www.usatf.org/News/Course-record-set-at-100-km-Trail-Championships-in.aspx

Joe and Joyce Prusaitis and the whole Tejas Trails crew did an amazing job AGAIN in the Cowboy Capital of the World.  2014-01-11 16.22.00

Want to give a HUGE shout out to the Crownover boys, Micah (age 9) and Noah (age 12) for tackling the 25km race out there and then running me into the finish!2014-01-11 16.22.53

Up next is Sean O’Brien 50km out in California.  After 2 snow/ice storms in Texas, Meredith and I need some west coast time and sunshine.  Then…it’s my turn to be ultra-sherpa at Ultraman Florida, can’t wait to support my wife in her epic journey like she has for me SO many times!!!   Thanks for reading. 2014-01-11 16.23.41

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2013 Year in Review

WOW, time flies when you’re having fun, especially in the month of December, which started off with a BANG by turning 40 on the 1st!  Got in a good 40 mile weekend: 20 on Saturday (14 road/6 trail), and then 20 miles of 40 half-mile hill repeats in front of the house, with the front yard secretly decorated with all kinds of photos!!  Technically I’ve been told by my friend Trey, it was really a single out and back followed by 39 repeats of the first one.  Semantics.  Anyway, it was GREAT fun and even better training to get in almost 4000’ of climbing in just over 3 hours, cap it off with 40 pushups, a signed copy of Unbroken…signed by none other than Louis Zamperini (thank you Meredith and Jana) , and then some great food and drinks and friends all hosted by my amazing wife Meredith, thanks babe! photo 5 (6) 40 Repeats DONE 40th Birthday yard art Hill of Life Run_Dec 4, 2013_1 of 6

If you’re a runner, the first week in December has quickly become synonymous with The Running Event (TRE) held in Austin.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take HOKA ONE ONE co-founder Nicolas Mermoud on a guided tour of Austin’s famed greenbelt trails.  The weather did NOT disappoint, as we were treated to warm weather and sunshine (enough to warrant a quick soak in Barton Creek) before the “cold” snap hit later in the week.  TRE did not disappoint either, as the HOKA booth was slammed all week checking out the new lineup for 2014 and beyond.Hill of Life Run_Dec 4, 2013_5 of 6Hill of Life Run_Dec 4, 2013_4 of 6

Once the cold snap hit, Jeff Browning (aka Bronco Billy) http://www.gobroncobilly.com/  joined me and my Team Rogue mates for an early morning 2 x 3-mile road session, as he was getting ready for XC Nationals a couple of weeks later.  Couple of extra miles on the trails and Jeff was set to go!

 

The next weekend was El Sendero 60k http://roguetrailmix.com/elsendero out at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet.  Slightly different format than last year: three 20km loops in lieu of the five 12km loops last year.  Chilly weather (for Texas) at least had me starting in a short sleeve shirt and thin vest, arm warmers, gloves and a beanie.  Thought I’d be dropping at least some of these clothes after the first or second loop, yet it stayed cool and breezy enough all day to keep them on.  Speedy high-schooler Ford Smith blasted off the front for the 6am start, while veteran runner but ultra-newbie Andrew Letherby opted to play it cool from mid-pack.  I stayed in the top-5 until the sun rose and after the first 10k which is a lot of scrambling over wet granite rocks at odd pitches.  The second 10k is more wide open and runnable.  After the first loop I expected to be in second place behind Ford but he ended up going off course somewhere.  From there, I just ran an even, steady race-pace effort and split almost exactly 1:41, 1:42, 1:43 for the loops, very happy to notch the win and hold off Andrew who only finished 10 minutes back.  Erik Stanley and Diana Ferguson did an AMAZING job with RDing and course setup.  First race in the HOKA Rapa Nui Trail and they were fantastic all day!RogueTrailMix-34

The following day it was time to bank some volunteer hours by helping replant the loblolly pine forest out at Bastrop State Park, one of Meredith’s VERY favorite places to trail run.  The Lost Pines Forest and surrounding areas were devastated by the Bastrop County Complex wildfire in September/October 2011.  In just four hours, the volunteer crew of approximately 30 volunteers, working in pairs, planted 1,411 loblolly seedling plugs along scenic Park Road 1C which links Bastrop State Park to Buescher State Park.  Huge thanks to friends Justin, Jeanmarie, and Trey for joining me while Meredith rode her bike from home out to the park (about 60 miles).  We then celebrated Justin’s birthday over lunch at the Bastrop Roadhouse!Bastrop Tree Planting_Dec 15, 2013Seedling 1 of 1411_Dec 15, 2013

Finally, last weekend we ventured out to the Hill Country for a quick 2-day training camp out in Bandera, prepping for the 100km USATF Trail Champs on January 11.  After some ugly GI issues on Friday and hail, lightning, and cold rain on Saturday morning, the skies cleared and treated us (Meredith, Kristal, Todd, and me) to a glorious weekend unlike we’ve ever had out there!  The girls got to spend some quality time with the horses and longhorn steer that live on the property where we stayed.  Solid 25 miles on Saturday and 18 on Sunday and it was time to hit the DQ on the way home for a celebration Blizzard!2013-12-20 16.49.22Post-run Rapa Nuis_Dec 22, 2013

Hopefully everyone has by now enjoyed an invigorating and recharging Christmas season and is looking forward to what 2014 has in store.  I know I am.  Thanks for reading y’all!Post-run legs cut up by sotol_Dec 22, 2013

I’m amazingly thankful for the running and triathlon “gift” that God has allowed me to explore.  Huge thanks as always to Hoka One One, Rogue Running, Jack & Adam’s Bicycles and High Five Events, Pure Austin Gym, DryMax Socks, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars, Advanced Rehab, thinksport, RunSmart, and Eating & Living Healthy for enabling me to train and race at my potential.

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Never Give Up

2011 finishing place: 3rd Airplane boarding zone: 3

Hotel room number: 333 Assigned bib number: 3

Notice a trend?

 

While I hoped to break the trend of “3”, the race obviously played out differently.  The pace seemed quick from the gun, with Ryan Smith of Boulder and local Liberty University alum Jordan Whitlock leading the way and a healthy chase group near behind.  Good chance for me to catch up with last year’s winner and the 2011 runner-up Brian Rusiecki.  Brian and his wife Amy came down to Texas earlier this year for the Nueces 50 miler and we got to spend time with them heading back and forth from Austin to Camp Eagle in Rocksprings.  Brian and I were careful to pay attention to the white ribbons marking the course, as the lead guys keep veering off course at inopportune times, once heading up a creek in ankle-deep water before circling back to the main trail!  The mountains of Virginia treated us to a GORGEOUS morning and a classic mid-Atlantic fall day.  Such a gift to be running, and only had to wear gloves for the first 15 minutes.  On to the task at hand…

By the time we reached Robinson Gap aid station (mile 17), Ryan had about a 2 minute lead on Brian, Jordan, 2011 champion Eric Grossman, me, and a couple others.  We were rolling pretty well through the Irish Creek (mile 20) and Reservoir (mile 22) aid stations before the big climb of the day up to Long Mountain.  Brian opened up a gap on me on the steeper sections of the climb, he was definitely feeling good!!!  Once it flattened out a bit coming into the mile 27 aid station I had just about bridged back up to him.  I hit my drop bag as fast as I could, reloaded bottles, and started the last half of the climb.  By this point, Brian had at least a 3 minute gap on me that extended to 5 minutes by the time we entered the Loop at mile 33.  I knew Grossman was close behind from the cheers at the aid station so there was no time to dally.

mmtr2014Heading downhill at mile 30 of MMTR 50 – photo by Blanks Blankinship

Had a decent time in the 5.5 mile Loop, except for a WICKED fall where I caught a toe on a leave-hidden rock and hit the deck hard on both knees and elbows, ouch that hurt!  Just kept moving and making forward progress, as Grossman was still in hot pursuit and there may have been a chance to catch one of the 2 leaders at this point.  But the gaps at the aid stations stayed in the mid-single digits and I was not able to put any good time into either Brian, who had assumed the lead at this point, or Ryan who stayed solid all day.

Coming into the last aid station at mile 47, I had not caught a glimpse of Grossman for quite some time yet still pressed the last couple miles of downhill to the finish.  MUCH to my surprise, Eric comes BLASTING downhill with about 2 or 3 miles to go!!   I quickly turned around to say, “holy sh!t”, and tucked right in behind him.  He was moving FAST, and knows this course as well as anyone.  Sipped on my calories and water while “enjoying” the kamikaze draft, I did not want to lose 3rd place at this point.  Exiting the rougher jeep road section and hitting the smoother steeper jeep road, my memory of the run-in to the finish came back to me.  I GUNNED it and took the longest strides my quads could take, thankful for the smooth ride of the Bondi-Bs.  Before long, the “1 mile” chalk mark appeared and although I opened up a small gap, Eric was by no means done, he kept pushing hard himself, probably hoping that by the time we hit the pavement for the last flat ½ mile I would be toast.  Passing a mountain biking David Horton I yelled, “Grossman’s hot on my heels!” and kept at it until the finish line, only 14 seconds separating 3rd and 4th.  Wow, that was exciting and a great way to NEVER GIVE UP.  Full results here:  http://www.eco-xsports.com/apps/livestats.php?race=2&year=2013

MMtr2014a

I’m amazingly thankful for the running and triathlon “gift” that God has allowed me to explore.  Huge thanks to my new Sponsor Hoka One One, who I look forward to representing, as well as: Rogue Running, Jack & Adam’s Bicycles and High Five Events, Pure Austin Gym, DryMax Socks, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars, Soleus Watches, Advanced Rehab, thinksport, RunSmart, and Eating & Living Healthy for enabling me to train and race at my potential.

Thanks for reading y’all!

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Racing Back to Fitness

So after my full serving of humble pie last month, it was time to get back to business.  And what better way to kick-start the process than penciling in a 10k road race and a 30k trail race a mere 6 days apart!?  For me, I find an INCREDIBLE amount of physical and physiological benefit of these shorter (relatively) and faster efforts at race speed and race intensity.  Nothing like pinning on a bib number to get things going!  The added benefit of going into them a bit fatigued from a week’s worth of training is by design and really forces me to dig deep on tired legs.  Try it, you just might like it!

Running scared from Mark H, Wes, Lee

Act I:  The plan for the IBM Uptown Classic 10k on Sunday October 6 was to get in a steady 10 miles on the roads Saturday morning followed by another 90 minutes out on the trails.  Then, get in a good couple mile warm-up before the 10k and a couple mile cool-down after it.  Austin treated us to a BEAUTIFUL Sunday morning (after an evening of rain) with one of the first days of relatively cooler weather, what a treat.  After the gun, I eased into my race pace pretty quickly and then tucked in behind my Rogue Running teammate “TALL” Lee http://roguerundown.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/meet-lee-toowey/ as we weaved our way through the Domain mall parking lots.  Once his breathing became a bit labored (almost like the “Buffalo” Todd Gerlach), I came around him and stretched out a bit coming down the MoPac frontage road.  Hit the 5k mark in 18:28 and stayed on the gas until the end, despite having two other Rogue teammates Wes (winner of the 2013 AFM Distance Challenge) and Mark run me down with about 1 mile to go!  My second 5k was 18:18, so both of them ran an even more negative split race, huge props to them.  Felt great to get in a couple mile cool-down and then a quick drive to meet Meredith and friends for breakfast!

Act II:  The plan for the inaugural Paleface 30k, having not run out at Pace Bend Park in about a decade (since my adventure racing days), was to go hard from the gun on the first loop with the 15km runners (the 30k was two loops) and then keep pushing on the second loop.  Friend Justin and I got to the park in great time for the 7am morning start and were treated to mouth and earfuls of gnats before the sun came up.  Thanks to the central Texas drought, Lake Travis is very low so the acreage of Pace Bend Park has grown exponentially.  I started with a handheld light and really only needed it for about 10 minutes as official sunrise was about 7:30am.  Fortunately, I had another runner in front of me, Joshua “Pain Train” Pauley http://dbupatriots.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=2405 , a senior XC and long-course track and field specialist at Dallas Baptist University, to help lead the way.  Josh hit the first loop like he was running the 15k, which I later learned he wasn’t, so I smartly decided to let him go about 10k into the 15k loop. (code for: he dropped me like a bag of rocks).  Somewhat surprisingly, Josh only had a 36 second lead on me (1:07:34 vs. 1:08:10) at the halfway point, where I swapped out for a fresh bottle with 2 more gels.  No gnats out on course, but PLENTY of humidity and it was thick, my singlet and shorts were totally soaked just 60 minutes in!  The course out at Pace Bend park is practically TAILOR-MADE for HOKAs (Bondi-Bs in my case), lots of limestone rocks to navigate over/around with hard packed dirt in between.  Great local training ground for Bandera.  Josh took off on loop 2 and I finally caught sight of him through the wooded switchbacks before the midway aid station at approx. mile 14.  Patience paid off, and I came around him as he stopped briefly to stretch.  Slammin’ Sammy Voltaggio topped off my bottle at the aid station, and I pressed forward to extend my gap.  Hit the tape in 2:17:02 which meant a 1:08:52 second loop, only a 42 second positive split!  Solid effort on some tough trails.  Will definitely be back, Mark and Dawn Lindsay did an AWEsome job on this first-year race with the always professional support of Joe and Joyce Prusaitis (and many others) at Tejas Trails!

Paleface podium_Oct 12, 2013 Paleface 30k finishline_Oct 12, 2013 Paleface 30k medal and award_Oct 2013

Act III:  Next up this weekend is a small speaking engagement for the Mrs. and me out at another inaugural event, the Hill Country Marathon (half and 10k too) http://runthehillcountry.com/races/hill-country-marathon-2/ in Marble Falls!  We are super-excited to have been asked to share some words with other runners.  Doesn’t hurt either that the pre-race dinner is at a brewery.   Come on out if you need to start “racing yourself back to fitness!”

 

I’m amazingly thankful for the running and triathlon “gift” that God has allowed me to explore.  Huge thanks as always to Hoka One One, Rogue Running, Jack & Adam’s Bicycles and High Five Events, Pure Austin Gym, DryMax Socks, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars, Soleus Watches, Advanced Rehab, thinksport, RunSmart, and Eating & Living Healthy for enabling me to train and race at my potential.

Thanks for reading y’all!

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Humble Pie

I like pie as much as the next guy: apple pie, pumpkin pie, Boston crème pie, key lime pie…Notice that humble pie did not make the short list, but that’s just what I got a FULL serving of, and then some, at last weekend’s Run Rabbit Run 100 in beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  RDs Fred Abramowitz and Paul Sachs (and their energizer-like volunteer coordinator Brady Worster) put on a super-challenging mountain hundred with a great laid-back vibe with a hometown feel.  Here’s how it all went down!

humble pie

-Noon starts are great!  Got to sleep in, catch a quickie 7:30am Mass at Holy Name Church at 5th & Oak St, do a drive-by recon of the road section up to the Fish Creek Falls trailhead, eat breakfast, and really relax prior to the start.

- The first climb under the gondola is STEEP!  Managed my effort well here and let plenty of people get out in front, including all the race favorites http://www.irunfar.com/2013/09/2013-run-rabbit-run-100-preview.html , though had Karl Meltzer http://karlmeltzer.com/ , Tim Olson http://timothyallenolson.wordpress.com/ , and Dave James http://rundavejames.wordpress.com/  in close proximity up at the top.  Was in no rush to redline it especially getting up to almost 10,500’ at Mt. Werner before the out and back up to Long Lake at mile 11.

-The stretch down to the Fish Creek Falls trailhead was a pretty technical for me and my size 13 Hokas, with lots on angular rocks to navigate around and over.  Took my time here so as not to make a mistake like a twisted ankle or major faceplant.   Tim Olson bided his time behind me for a little while then darted ahead.  Hitting the road for the 4-miles of pavement down to Olympian Hall was a welcome opportunity for me to recalibrate my legs early in the race.  We were encouraged to have a pacer through this section if we could due to safety with traffic and Meredith gladly offered to run the downhill.  I would say she paced me, but she ran the pace she wanted me to be running which was about 20 meters faster than I was going to run…so we never actually ran together until we hit town.  At the Fish Creek Falls aid station, I should have swapped out my race vest for a single handheld.  Enjoyed running through town and didn’t have to wait at the traffic light very long.

-Emerald Mountain is a lot of fun!  Really enjoyed the 20 mile loop out of Olympian Hall and things were feeling pretty good towards the end of the loop.  Women’s leader Michelle Yates http://www.dreamliverun.com/  was within sight and I passed a struggling Dave Mackey http://davemackey.blogspot.com/  at about mile 40.  Offered some encouragement (better than a grunt like at Western http://grandkonaslam2012.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/get-it-son/ ) and some thoughts for his family back in the Boulder flood. Even though a conservatively grabbed my headlamp at Cow Creek mile 30, I didn’t need it at all.  Small mistake to wear a headlamp needlessly for 12 miles.  After a quick Hoka and Drymax sock change, I was back out on the pavement for the climb back up to the Fish Creek Falls trailhead, this time with 2 handhelds.  So far so good!

-Quick change of clothes into a shortsleeve shirt, Drymax arm warmers, thin gloves, vest donned with Patagonia Houdini jacket safely stashed away, fresh mp3, and I was off for the approximate 12 mile climb up to the highest point of the course at 12,600’.  Got off course a little bit scrambling up Fish Creek Falls after following the path blazed by a couple of earlier –starting Tortoises, maybe a 5 minute detour.  Then out of nowhere, Dave Mackey comes BLASTING by me like he’s being chased by something.  Very impressive stuff and there was no way for me to hang with him.  Settled into my groove and hit Long Lake shortly before 10pm and Summit Lake at about a quarter after 11pm.

-Leaving Summit Lake (mile 58), lightning illuminated the night sky and it was just a matter of time until the sprinkles turned into a full-fledged downpour!  Jacket on, hood up, headlamp on, keep on truckin’.  Becky Wheeler came ripping by me on the jeep road and I was able to keep pace with her into Dry Lake aid station, which was NOT so dry!  Even though I was more than 2 hours behind the leaders here, my mood was on fire, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”  Apparently, I was having a time for all at the aid station.  Here is a sample: Nick – “are you going to switch vests (meaning fuel vest).”  Me – “I have it unzipped a bit so it can breathe.” I then reach for my fuel vest and realize I still have the other one on.  My trusty crew Meredith and Nick Pedatella braved the elements and motivated me to keep moving down to Spring Creek Ponds, about 5 miles further downhill.  More rain and skooching over to the side of the singletrack trail to let others be.  Stayed on Becky’s six until the 70-mile aid station manned by Nick Clark http://irunmountains.blogspot.com/  and family/friends, though Nikki Kimball http://www.neverstopexploring.com/blog/contributors/Nikki%20Kimball/ came blasting by us shortly before we hit it.  Hot soup tasted GREAT!  But now it was time to retrace the 12 mile climb back up to Summit Lake, ouch, humble pie!

-Here’s where the wheels started turning less quickly.  Good steady hiking pace, but nothing that would make me competitive for the last 1/3 of the race.  Most of the rain had subsided by the time I got to Dry Lake aid station (inbound), and Nick had me change into a dry long sleeve shirt, dry gloves, and a dry pair of socks, as this would be the last crew point until the finish!

HumblePieMatrixGIF2_small

-The last 29 miles were a grind for me, but I kept always moving and making forward progress while out on the trail.  Pam Smith http://theturtlepath.blogspot.com/ motored by with a very steady hiking cadence.  Hot “breakfast” of eggs, pancake, and bacon at Summit Lake (mile 82) and Long Lake (mile 90) were much needed sustenance as the new day (Saturday) was upon me.  Coming out of Long Lake aid station, the 50 milers were out on course and I knew I might see Meredith.  She was relieved to see me, fearing a DNF, as Pam Smith told her that she had not seen me!

-Finishing is ALWAYS a relief, and I hit the Mt Werner aid station (mile 97) with about 75 minutes to go until the strike of noon.  Yes, there is a chance for a sub-24 hour finish!  Finally manned up and bombed the 6 miles (race total mileage: 103+) to the finish in under and hour, but not after loading up on M&Ms and potato chips!  Relief.  Humble pie never tasted so good.

I’m amazingly thankful for the running and triathlon “gift” that God has allowed me to explore.  Words cannot express my gratitude for the selfless contribution of my wife Meredith and crewmate Nick.  Thanks to Hoka for sponsoring the race coverage http://www.irunfar.com/2013/09/2013-run-rabbit-run-100-live-coverage.html this weekend.  Huge thanks as always to Rogue Running, Jack & Adam’s Bicycles and High Five Events, Pure Austin Gym, DryMax Socks, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars, Soleus Watches, Advanced Rehab, thinksport, RunSmart, and Eating & Living Healthy for enabling me to train and race at my potential.

Thanks for reading y’all!

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Get It Son!!

If you want to see the video version of Western States 2013 Watch here!  If you want to read the report, grab a beer and read on.

Wednesday June 26: Travel Day.  All systems go.  Meredith and I are at the Austin airport early for our 6:10am Southwest flight.  We’ve bag-checked (no fees!) the same stickered Rubbermaid cooler and 3 cheapie camp chairs that we bought at the Truckee grocery store in 2006.  Meredith’s already been up since 2am for her now routine 90 minute pre-flight bike trainer workout.  Pacer #1 Bryan “BMort” http://rogueracingteam.wordpress.com/rogue-racers/bryan-morton/ is also at the airport, his girlfriend Sarah dropped him off.  Crew members Justin and his girlfriend Jeanmarie are here too, they kindly reshuffled their Bighorn 100 travel plans for a taste of “Statesmas” after Justin got hurt earlier this year.  Justin’s Jansport backpack has duct tape all over one of the shoulder straps and looks like he stole it from a 5th grader.  It also has a race # sharpied on it from previous duty as an aid station drop bag.  Classic.  Team Terranova (all members) are first class and ready to go.  The security line is virtually nonexistent, so much so that our acquaintance who monitors the priority line is surprised when we navigate our way through the general boarding maze.  (We see her and other TSA employees so often at the Austin airport that they usually recognize us).  I grab pre-flight coffee, and go for the Ethiopian blend because they’re the fastest runners offered.  BMort has made some scones and they are delicious.  Next, we see our friend Mike who’s off to upstate New York on a business trip and to catch some sightseeing of Niagara Falls (no he didn’t bring his own barrel).  We share some laughs and he’s off to his gate.  Our first flight to Vegas is on time as well.  Exiting the plane in Vegas, we get partway to our next gate and BMort realizes that he left his carry-on bag ON THE PLANE.  Oops.  Mulligan #1.  While he returns to the aircraft, Meredith, Justin, and Jeanmarie hit the Coffee Bean and the Wheel of Fortune slots.  Like, what else is there to do at 7am in Vegas?  When we arrive in Reno BMort remembers his bag this time J   First stop: Whole Foods for group shopping adventure.   My sole job here is to pick out the coffee.  Peet’s Uzuri African Blend for more fast runners from East Africa.  While Meredith mans everyone’s food needs she also has the WF pizza guy make us 3 giant uncooked pizzas for Thursday night pre-race dinner.  Down to a science.  5 people, luggage, and groceries all stuffed into one Ford Explorer, off to Squaw!  Somebody jokes about leaving the popsicles in the way back exposed to the hot sun, mulligan #2?  We giggle as we pass through the produce checkpoint, it’s a beautiful day already and the mountains await.  We make it to Safeway in Truckee for “economic stimulus” package #2, then to the Squaw Valley Lodge for check in.  RD Craig Thornley is walking by as we pull up, calm, cool, and collected despite just learning that he’ll have to find a new start line location for Saturday’s race due to irrigation/landscaping work.  We motivate for a post-flight shake out run up the mountain.  I only go 30 minutes up and then head back down.  I’m wearing the Bondi-Bs that will take me from the start to Foresthill (mile 62).  Entirely comfortable in a long sleeve, short sleeve, and beanie.  Unpack.  Meredith and Jeanmarie head to Truckee bring back burgers, while the guys sneak off to the hot tub and work on our tans (GTL!).  Dinner is awesome.  Meredith goes over the remaining details of the race day crewing plan.  Fueling plan has been nailed down for awhile now, so the biggest detail we have to go over is who is going to hand off which bottle.  Jeanmarie takes notes like the accounting graduate student she is.  Meredith has been gently teasing me the past couple weeks about my pathetic splits in the last 20 miles from last year’s race, comparing them to her 2010 sub-24 hour year http://www.wser.org/wp-content/uploads/stats/wser2010.xls .  She makes it clear that there will be NO WALKING from Robie Pt (mile 99) to the finish.  And no hissy fits.  Tough love.  Justin spills the beans about us hitting the hot tub without the girls.  Busted.  We say hi to Aliza http://alapierre3.blogspot.com/ and George just arriving from their, what has become standard, delayed flights from Vermont.

Thursday June 27: Prep Day #1.  We meet Aliza and her Salomon teammate Cassie for an early morning run.  George is going mountain biking and the rest of my crew is heading back up the mountain for some fun time on their own.  Cassie, Aliza, and I do a short out and back on the paved path out of the Olympic Village, enjoying the quiet morning and catching up.  The ladies head up the mountain, I opt for a shorter (and rolling) route over by the golf course.  I’m wearing a different (newer) pair of Bondi-Bs that will hopefully take me from Foresthill to the finish.  Entirely comfortable in a long sleeve, short sleeve, and beanie.   Back to the condo for breakfast and coffee.  Relax.  Pray.  Read.  Stretch.  Repeat.  Bryan returns and we hit the Western States Store.  I bring back a couple patches, stickers, and ’09 WS Program with Graham Cooper on the cover, and the ’82 and ’83 Desperate Dreams documentaries for some pre-race entertainment.  (In my opinion, Graham’s the only other athlete I’m aware of who’s capable of becoming the second person to complete the Grand Kona Slam.)  The crew returns and Justin commences eating.  His eating will not stop for the next 4 days.  If I have one tapeworm (Jacques), Justin has two (George and Jose)!!!  Lunch.  More relaxing.  Pray.  Read.  Meredith meets Aliza to go over her fueling plan.  Quick dip in the hot tub.  Dinner, remember those 3 pizzas from WF?!  A friend from Massachusetts Sam joins us for dinner.  We head over to the pool for some chill time and for Meredith to catch a swim.  The ’82 Desperate Dreams viewing leaves us longing to watch the ’83 version (and for the invention of the sportsbra), but we opt to save it for tomorrow night.

Friday June 28: Prep Day #2.  Bryan, Sam, Meredith, and I meet Aliza and George for a morning shake out run.  Aliza and I pose with Meredith pretending to “quarter” her and keep her each as our own pacer.  We both know how good she is!  Aliza has Adam and husband George as her pacers;  she’s in great hands.  Nothing fancy: warm up, some pick-ups, stretch out, done.  Today, I’m wearing a pair of Pearl Izumi Emotion N1s that might get the call somewhere in the last ¼ of the race.  I’ve worn them for up to 50 mile races so I know they are up for the task.  They are fast.  Entirely comfortable in a long sleeve, short sleeve, and beanie.  Same outfit I’ve been wearing all week and it’s getting a tad bit rank.  My short sleeve is the bright green Pearl Izumi 2013 Quadrock 50 shirt.  Despite a 20 minute PR on a slightly longer course, this is the race that could have “shaken my confidence.”  http://www.irunfar.com/2013/06/2013-western-states-100-mens-preview.html   Karl gives me a nod: http://karlmeltzer.com/2013/06/6-days-till-we-sprint-around-in-a-circle/  Andy gives me decent credit:  http://www.irunfar.com/2013/06/andy-jones-wilkins-pre-2013-western-states-100-interview.html  I head back to the condo for a quick snack and coffee before check-in/weigh-in, getting there just before 9am, thankful to have missed the rush.  Stan Jensen http://www.run100s.com/ is there to greet me.  Suddenly, I’m in a zone already and small talk evades me.  Blood pressure high on the first try, tech tries again and it’s back to normal, maybe it’s the automated cuff machines she remarks?  Weigh-in is good, no issues.  Very cool Mountain Hardwear duffel bag, brown WS100 hoodie, stainless steel WS100 mug this year, and Udo’s Oils Samples (a staple in our house).  Shoe/equipment survey is the bottleneck so the questions get shortened to: Brand of shoes?  Brand of socks?  Bottles or pack?  Handheld or headlamp? (can you guess what my answers were?) J  Back to condo for full breakfast and then packing.  Drop bags for Red Star Ridge (mile 16), Last Chance (mile 43), Devil’s Thumb (mile 48) and Auburn Lakes Trail (mile 85) have been packed for weeks, but they get double-checked, and then zipped up.  New batteries all around, but deep inside I’m hoping not to need lights for very long.  “Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”  Relax.  Pray.  Read.  Lunch.  Drop-bag drop off.  Meet the Pearl Izumi Team for some pre-race photos and chit-chat.  Meredith jokes with Nick (Clark) http://irunmountains.blogspot.com/ that the most commonly used word in pre-race interviews would make a solid drinking game: how many times did runs talk about the weather and the “suffering?”  Drinking game for Saturday would be for: “carnage in the aid stations.”  I present two of the PI Grand Slammers that I know, Clark, and Pedatella, each with envelopes that read “2013 Grand Slam of Ultrarunning – Golden Tickets.”  Inside are 4 Southwest airlines drink tickets, each sharpied with the names of the 4 races: WS, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch.  They’ll need them for the flights home, nothing takes the edge off of swollen feet and ankles like a Wild Turkey bourbon!  Pre-race meeting.  New location is great, and Jeanmarie has graciously pre-staged the 3 camp chairs in the shade with a good view of the “stage”.  A bird craps on my hand.  That’s good luck right?  We see Ian Sharman and Jonathan Shark, and wish them good luck on the start of their Slams.  Meredith and I crewed and paced Ian at his Rocky Raccoon 100-mile record and again at 2011 States where he ran his way into the top-ten.  Jonathan, a Major in the Army stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord (Washington), was deployed overseas last year with my brother-in-law Ryan, and we have him largely to thank for passing the ultra-bug onto Ryan.  Dinner – my pre-race usual and Meredith has a feast prepared for all of us in no time.  It doesn’t stand a chance.   We slide in the ’83 Desperate Dreams movie, grab my pre-race DQ tradition and go back in time 30 years.  They were pounding the Coke and Pepsi even back then!  Scott Wolfe drops by to share the last of some local pre-race homebrew.  I jokingly ask, “Is this laced with something that is going to make me piss hot tomorrow?”  Haha.

Saturday June 29, Go Time!

2am wakeup for my usual pre-race breakfast.  It goes down fast and easy by the light of my headlamp.  Try to go back to sleep but I’m already wide awake even without a sip of coffee.  Get dressed, stretch, roll out with my TriggerPoint Grid foam roller http://www.tptherapy.com/  It’s rarely been far from my reach these past 2 years, along with a massage stick and lacrosse ball.  Bib # and chip pickup, gorgeous morning already.  Weigh-in #2 done, about 5 pounds heavier than yesterday, no issues after a huge dinner and breakfast.  Contacts in, nipple band-aids on, thinksport sunscreen http://www.thinksport.co/thinksport_LIVESTRONG_sunscreen.html on, lube in all the right places.  I’m relaxed and at peace.  Sipping on a bottle of raspberry Skratch http://www.skratchlabs.com , we make our way to the start line.  The Boss, Bruce Springsteen is playing on the sound system when I enter the starting corral with about 10 minutes to go.  Always a good sign.  Share some pre-race handshakes and hugs with Pedatella, Aliza, the Queen, and RD Thornley.  I’m as excited for Craig as he is for us, yes, “it’s really going to happen!”  Kiss from the wife, hugs with the crew, please drive safe to Auburn y’all.  Time to go piss with the big dogs.

The hike/run up to the Escarpment is easy and pedestrian.  Position myself near runners to benchmark off of, I don’t need to be at the front, just close enough to not be stuck in “no man’s land.”  Meltzer, Uhan http://joeuhan.blogspot.com  and Pedatella are good company to be in near the top.  Bob MacGillivray with Drymax http://www.drymaxsocks.com  catches some great shots of us.  I top off my water bottle at the aid station and we’re up and over the top.  MUCH different than last year’s freezing rain and horizontal wind.  Music on.  Uhan takes off like a speeding bullet into Granite Chief, I suspect he wants to win this race and can’t afford to let the lead pack get too far ahead.  Patience, patience, patience.  Jacob Rydman http://jacobrydman.blogspot.com comes by me and he appears to be running well too.  Mile splits of “7-6-8” will get me to Duncan Canyon (mile 24), where my crew is headed towards.  Take a gel before Lyon Ridge (mile 10.5), top off water, grab a gel on the way out that I drop while screwing the cap back on.  Return to aid station to retrieve gel.  Mulligan #3?  Even though I’m on 17 hour pace, I’m somewhat leery that it’ll be a day like 2006 (HOT).  At all costs, do not run out of water or fuel. This is the least familiar section of trail for me as I’ve only run it once during last year’s race, where it felt like such a scramble.  Much easier this year.  Music in my ears is great. Relaxed.  Let’s do this Greg.  My fuel bottles have “GB” sharpied on them, in remembrance of a great friend Greg Bourgeois who passed away over Christmas after a short 6-month battle with brain and spinal cancer.  http://grandkonaslam2012.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/running-for-a-friend/  Amazingly, his wife Naomi has now taken up running and has her eyes on a first marathon next year, so proud of her!!!  Red Star Ridge (mile 16) approaches.  I reload my fuel and water bottles, ignore my drop-bag, it’s really only there as a back-up or if it’s a “2006-like” year.  Off to Duncan Canyon.  Mike Morton http://www.runmortonrun.com/ comes floating by me and is looking very smooth and comfortable.  He’s a compact dangerous dude!  More relaxed running.  Absolutely stunning morning so far.  Right on 17-hour pace. Crew is there.  Vest swap, sunglasses on, ice water in mouth and on head, cold wet bandana in hand, couple swigs of cherry coke, 3rd bottle of ice water, efficient, we are on it.

Jacob and I leave Duncan together.  He’s running great and I clumsily snag my left toe on a root or a rock, catching myself with my outstretched left hand and wet, now muddy, bandana.  L  Collecting myself, I let Jacob go run his race and reel in Joe and the other leaders.  From here, I’ve memorized mile splits of “6-6-3” to get to Dusty Corners (mile 38) and my next crew point.  Duncan Canyon creek offers the first opportunity to un-muddy my bandana and resoak my visor.  Bondi-Bs are wet, heavy and I’m slow up the climb to Robinson Flat (mile 30).  I’m looking forward to a porta-potty break there but realize I can’t make it that far so dash into the woods and take care of business.  Back on the trail I am moving well and have not lost a position.  Weigh-in at Robinson is spot on, and I top off 2 water bottles with ice and water, reload my fuel bottle, music still on.  I’m outta’ there and pick-out Pearl Izumi’s Scott Tucker cheering me on, thanks Scott!  The run in to Miller’s Defeat (mile 35) and then Dusty is rather uneventful, except for surprisingly coming back up onto Jacob who has slowed.  I ask if he needs anything, though I’m not certain that intelligible audible words actually made it out of my mouth.  By the time words are reformed and spit out, I am physically already only 10 feet downhill but my mind is already at the aid station, locked on.  Sorry Jacob.  Crew is waiting, my thumbs are up: vest swap, ice water, cold towel, cherry coke in the 3rd handheld this time, Meredith walks me out.  My crew is doing amazing.

My next set of mile splits are “5-5-5-3” to get to Michigan Bluff.  I’m feeling great, and then surprise Yassine http://www.yassinediboun.com/ standing and stretching in the middle of the trail.  He must have had earbuds on because he jumped when I asked if he was okay!  After leaving Last Chance (mile 43) I come upon the normally resilient Dave Mackey https://twitter.com/mackeydave .  This time, I get some intelligible words out and ask if he needed anything.  Nope.  Wow, can the carnage really be starting already?  This section of trail is burned into my mind, having run it backwards from Foresthill to Last Chance and then forward to Michigan Bluff on day 2 of Memorial Day training camp and again forwards on Day 4 from Robinson to Cal-2 with Joe and Jacob.  It is easy, and I time a gel perfectly so by the time Swinging Bridge is in sight it’s fully absorbed.  Quick stop at the spring to soak bandana, head, visor, and refill my 3rd water bottle.  Off I go to Devil’s Thumb (mile 48).  A hiker offers up this little nugget:  “well you’re not alone out here, but the next runner is at least 10 minutes in front of you!”  Not sure if that was supposed to make me feel better or worse… J  It’s partly shaded here, so sunglasses go up on the brim of the visor.  Regardless, I hike most of the Thumb, careful to bide my time and not burn any matches.  Hydrate, fuel, hydrate, cool.  The hiker was right, totally alone out there until reaching the aid station!  My weigh-in is up a couple pounds from my morning weight, and I’m read the riot act about hyponatremia by the medical staffer, who continues to hound me as I go about my business of cooling off with cold sponges, accessing my drop-bag, getting bottles refilled, snagging a lime green popsicle (same color as the Quad Rock 50 shirt).  Got it, thanks lady.  A bright light off to the right catches my eye, it’s the bleach-blonde head of Cameron Clayton http://www.salomonrunning.com/us/team/clayton.html sitting against the trunk of an immense tree, more carnage.  Trotting out, the popsicle dissolves in my mouth and the stick gets stashed away in my vest pocket for safekeeping, as maybe it has some kind of fortune or saying on it.  I suck down an extra S! Cap and mosey down the trail, eager to keep making forward progress.

Throughout training the past 2 months, a 2006 NorthFace photo of Kami Semick http://kamisemick.blogspot.com/ dousing at Devil’s Thumb greeted me every morning to remind me of the importance of heat training, thanks Kami!Kami Semick - 2006

The 5-mile descent to El Dorado Creek (mile 53) is an absolute gift and I dial up the tunes a couple of levels and relish the heat building in the mid-day.   The aid station volunteers greet me with ice cold sponges and towels on my head and shoulders, I bend over at the waist as the cold briefly takes my breath away.   They say I’m in 11th place and looking great.  Slamming cups of coke, I mosey my way out for the 3-mile section to Michigan Bluff.  This is another 45 minute hike/run I’m not about to burn a match on.   Densely wooded at the base, shades go back up on the visor.  Suddenly I’m no longer alone and whip my head around to eye my competitor’s absent race number.  The runner quickly identifies himself as the Michigan Bluff medical captain who I later learn from friend Lee is Kevin Sawchuck http://kevinsawchuk.blogspot.com/.  “What’s going on, has somebody gone down?”  I ask and he gives me a brief synopsis of how the race is playing out in front of me.  Despite it being 2pm in the afternoon, Kevin easily runs the steepest sections on his way back to Michigan Bluff as I settle into a sustainable groove.  Closer to 18-hour pace, the Bluff is here, it’s alive, and there’s no hyponatremia riot act this time after weigh-in.  Meredith shepherds me through as I snag a couple pieces of Pay-Day bar from the aid station and get another thorough dousing.  We are all business: the usual plus a swap of mp3 players.  Headphones have already been unplugged on the run into the Bluff.  Exiting, I’m stunned to see Uhan walking towards me, no way I took a wrong turn.  His eyes are hollow and he declines my offer for salts or gel.  Now M10, there’s still work to be done and I roll on, taking advantage of every tangent and shady area of the gravel logging road.  Before long, I DO have competitive company on the descent into Volcano canyon, this time it’s Karl, man that guy is good.  He takes his time reeling me in and we enjoy steadily traversing the switchbacks.  Volcano is living up to its name – like an oven down there.  Deferring to Karl, I sidestep the trail to let him by, noticing what I think are cut-down Bondi-Bs on his feet.  (I later learn from Karl that these are the Rapa Nui Comps available in Europe).  We get to the creek and I remind him (and myself) not to slip on the rocks, which I did last year landing awkwardly on my hip.  Karl is gone up the climb as I douse with the cold water.  Almost to Bath Road (mile 61).  This feels longer than it should but finally it’s here.  Justin greets me with two bottles of ice cold water and we hike up.  He quickly gets a shuffle out of me that turns into a run all the way to Foresthill (mile 62), nice.   Another good weigh-in, huge dousing, cups of sprite from the aid station.  Trotting to the car, there is rich applause and plenty of camera time.  My change of shoes and socks is waiting by the camp chair, Jeanmarie has the iciest coldest towel on my head, cold fuel, which is a welcome change to my palate, a bold spectator, who the crew later tells me they befriended, who at first I think is Lee helps peel off my soaking Drymax Trail Running v5 socks and gets a slightly thinner pair of road Drymax Max Pro Running v5 on as my feet and toes tend to swell late in a race of this distance.  The lace work is on me and I’m aware to ensure the chip strap finds its way back onto my ankle.  Thankful to have not had a Joe Kulak (2nd fastest all-time Grand Slammer) http://www.wasatch100.com/alltime/gsalltime12.pdf  2006 endurance “moment” at Foresthill, it’s onto California Street!

Joe Kulak - 2006

Bryan and I take off and we joke about the 50km “yog” in front of us to get to Highway 49 (mile 93). He’s never run this trail so it’s my gift to him to share what I know and have learned along the way.  During Memorial Day training camp, friend Ian Torrence http://iantorrence.blogspot.com/ entertained Emily Harrison http://emilyandbee.blogspot.com/ and me with stories of prior races and anecdotes of pacing this section of trail.  My turn to pay it forward.  We navigate the tricky little road crossing and I fiddle with Meredith’s mp3 volume button and accidently turn it off.  Not knowing instinctively how to turn it back on, I quickly abandon resuscitation efforts and we proceed onwards.  Two friends on a Saturday afternoon training run, right?!  The past couple of months Bryan has endured 5:30AM pop-quizzes on the aid-station splits and times I’ve assigned him.  The first couple he failed miserably.  His girlfriend Sarah offered to help.  An easily remembered “35, 35” will get us to the River at mile 78.  After 2 sharp hairpin turns, my toes go jamming into the front of my shoes, OUCH that hurts.  Laces too loose, my fault.  STOP right now, sit, snug ‘em up.  Done.  Let’s go.  We hit Cal-1 and I’m all over the Sprite and the sponge bucket.  Leaving, we have company in the form of Jesse Haynes http://jessehaynes.blogspot.com/ and his pacer coming into Cal-1.  Good times.  I remind Bryan to stay with the pace we’re on, no need to react.  This comes naturally to us, we train together and we’ve paced both the Austin and Houston Marathon 3-hour pace groups together multiple times.  Jesse and his pacer blow by us and suddenly we’re M12. No worries, lots of running to go.  A mile or so out of Cal-2 (mile 71), we sneak by Jorge Maravilla http://www.maukarunning.com and his pacer and as we reach the aid station, Jesse is back in sight.  We leave first after reloading and dousing, but not for long, Jesse is soon back, running well, and by us in a flash.  The next thing I know, 2-time WS champion (2007 and 2009) Hal Koerner is in sight and walking.  We slide by without breaking stride.  Elevator shaft, done.  Cal-3 (mile 73) is a quickie stop, splash and go, locked into the siren call of the American River.  Sandy Bottom, done.  C’mon river!  Before we know it, Jesse is back in sight again, and oh lookie here, somebody else (Jeremy Humphrey http://stayvertical928.blogspot.com/ ) is with them.  I’m not sure if they see us.  Bryan and I hold back while I get a gel down, shake out the arms and legs.  The trail opens up to Jeep road and we briefly spread out before gently sneaking our way closer.  How cool, virtual M8, M9, and M10 hitting the river all at the same time!  We are on their six, and I ask out loud, “who’s ready to go for a swim?!”  Heads turn.  “I am!”  J Around the gate we go and I remind Bryan that I’ll weigh-in real quick and to meet me at the crossing.  I’m stunned that we’re crossing in boats again, but it is what it is and we’re first in, accompanied by Jesse.  Immediately, I do my best 2010 Geoff Roes http://akrunning.blogspot.com/ impersonation of him repeatedly splashing water on his head, then I share a quick anecdote with our river guide of how in the ’82 and ’83 Desperate Dreams movies, they crossed in an aluminum boat with an outboard engine.  His reply, “well, today I’m your engine.”  Fair enough!  On the far side, Meredith is waiting for us and yelling for Bryan to get wet as I am. Exiting, I lay down in the water for about 10 seconds and submerged my whole body and head, careful not to dislodge a contact lens.  Wow, that feels good.  Jesse has wasted no time and is up the climb to Green Gate (mile 80) in a flash.  We are all in great spirits and I ask how Aliza is doing in the women’s race.  We get to running, and updating from the adventures of the rest of the day, and before long Karl is back in sight, obviously going through a low moment.  Meredith offers him cold coke, which he declines preferring to suffer without help.  Through the aid station, fresh vest from Justin, sunglasses and earbuds off, Bryan has already reloaded his vest and smartly grabbed his headlamp too.  I decline mine, opting to first get to Auburn Lakes Trail (ALT) (mile 85) where my drop bag has 2 small backup handhelds.  Out the gate (which is grey by the way), Jesse is on his way back in, wanting to change shoes.  Off we go…

“6, 5, 4” to Highway 49.  We have been flirting with just over 18-hour time and the running is still good at 7pm.  Training camp weekend, Lee and I rolled this section to No Hand’s Bridge (mile 97) on Day 4.  Lee is pacing Don Freeman http://trailrunnernation.com/ today and I wonder how they’re doing.  Jesse and pacer #2 catch back up to us in the run-in to ALT, Bryan skooches off to the downslope edge of the trail as they come by and nearly takes a tumble.  I jokingly thank them for trying to kill my pacer!  J  Weigh-in, drop-bag, handheld light, and we’re off, beating Jesse out of the aid station again.  For real?  I like a good game of cat and mouse but this is getting ridiculous.  They are smartly on us again and Bryan is more careful this time.  We stay motivated by running without lights until we get to Brown’s Bar (mile 90).  Christmas lights, music, it’s all good.  Lights on, quick feet on and around the rocks, grind up that climb, lots of American flags flying at Hwy 49 (mile 93).  Before getting to the aid station, I tell Bryan that I’ve secretly stashed a Texas and American flag in the crew backpack, and to pull them out for the finish.  We smile.  Visor in hand, headlamp on.  Let’s do this.  Get it son! (inspirational words from our friend, Brad)

Meredith assumes the pacing duties here and immediately lets me know that we have some work to do to come in under 18 hours.  “3, 2, 1” to the finish at Placer High track.  She strings me along until further than I wanted and I beckon her to stay closer.  It doesn’t motivate me to have her so far in front.  We’ve danced this dance before at Vermont and Wasatch.  We hit the meadow and see headlamps.  Just a bunch of kids.  Unlike last year, the downhill running is great and I am now on her heels to No Hands Bridge (mile 97), which we hit with a growing cushion towards breaking 18.  Mer knows the trail likes she runs it everyday and knew just how hard to run up to Robie Point (mile 99).  No walking this year, no hissy fit.  Steady hike on the steep pavement and then we’re back running.  Jeanmarie, Justin, and Bryan meet us on the road and we enjoy an evening run with friends in the Auburn darkness.  Mission accomplished.  Jeanmarie hands me the flags and I give her my vest and headlamp, we have plenty of time.  My sub-14 minute split from Robie to the finish bests Mer’s 2010 split, and proudly trumps my 23min split from last year.

1987: Out of Stater Wins – Unfazed by the stifling heat (114°F recorded in El Dorado Canyon), Mary Hammes of Fort Worth, Texas, became the first non-Californian (man or woman) to win the Western States.  Herb Tanzer overtook Steve Warshawer in the last six miles to win overall.”

To the best of my knowledge and easily searchable Western States 100 information, my 2013 8th place finish is the first ever top-ten finish by a male Texan, something I’m incredibly proud of and will not soon forget.

I’m amazingly thankful for the running and triathlon “gift” that God has allowed me to explore.  Words cannot express my gratitude for the selfless contribution of Bryan, Jeanmarie, and Justin.  Once the finish line was crossed they continued to “crew” and deliver some well earned In n Out burger to the track as we cheered on finishers for a little while.  Meredith – the TEAM effort was once again a winning one.  Huge thanks as always to Jack & Adam’s Bicycles and High Five Events, Pure Austin Gym, DryMax Socks, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars, Soleus Watches, Advanced Rehab, thinksport, RunSmart, Rogue Running, and Eating & Living Healthy for enabling me to train and race at my potential.

Thanks for reading y’all!

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