Not all race reports are fun to write…this was one of those.
Race week could 100% NOT have gone any better. Easy travel into Squaw, quick drive back to the Patagonia Reno Outlet on Wednesday for a pre-WS100 panel discussion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOzT5M3mH8s (thanks Ginger Runner for moderating!), couple normal easy hikes and runs, plenty of rest and time to get appropriately focused. Karma smiled upon Meredith and me twice as we had the opportunity to host and share time with the legend David Horton in our rental condo, and also 20-time finisher Jim Scott and his wife Mary Jo joined our crew for support at Robinson Flat, Bath Road, and Rucky Chucky far side. Weather was looking to be nice and warm, not quite 2013 hot but warmer than 2015 for sure. No excuses, all systems GO!
Race started controlled and with a healthy respect for the day ahead. The hike/run up to Watson’s Monument felt super easy and the first couple aid stations at Lyon Ridge, Red Star Ridge, and Duncan Canyon had me exactly where I wanted to be (15 – 20th place, a couple minutes slower than anticipated, within striking range of 10-15th place) without having to play any matches or over exert myself. The miles came easy in the high country, footwork was smooth (NO falls this year), and my crew of Meredith and training partner & friend Troy Bertram took phenomenal care of me at Duncan Canyon mile 24, ice bandana #1!
The climb up to Robinson Flat from Duncan Creek had historically been a relative low point for me the last 3 years, but with some minor adjustments she let me arrive in great spirits and feeling superb. Jim and Mary Jo had a fresh ice bandana and good calories waiting at Robinson Flat, and the subsequent climb up to Little Bald Mountain came equally as smooth. With 30 of 100 miles neatly tucked away and a gorgeous dry sunny day ahead I methodically motored on…
Again, Troy and Meredith and the good people at Dusty Corners took great care of me 8 miles later, staying wet, ice bandana, good calories, etc. The super-fun descent down to Last Chance and Deadwood Canyon came off without a hitch and I took some extra time at the spring on the far side of Swinging Bridge to get wet, reload my simple water bottle for staying wet, and embarked upon the Devil’s Thumb climb, which I’ve done so many times now between training camps and racing that I know not even to think about running the early sections and instead settle into a steady power hike and work my way into it. This year, however, by the time I emerged on top of the climb, WHOOOFFF, that was harder than it should have been!!! Okay, no problem, relax, be patient, take your time here, get cool, get iced down, there’s still a LONG day ahead…huge thanks to Joe Uhan and others for catering to my every need here!
Onward to El Dorado Creek and enroute perform some self-triage in anticipation of the climb up to Michigan Bluff, which, much like the climb up to Devil’s Thumb, ended up being WAY harder than it should have been. Okay, no problem, keep rolling, get to your crew at mile 56, rally, things WILL come around!
At Michigan Bluff, I traded the Best Day Ever visor that I had been wearing for a tropical bucket hat loaded with ice. SMART move, that felt great!!! Volcano Canyon can be super hot and today was no exception. Totally submerged in Volcano Creek and Jim was eagerly awaiting me at the base of Bath Road like the total pro he is! We made good time up to Foresthill at which time Troy and I set our sights on Cal Street (his first time!) – plenty of work to be done…
Seemed I had slipped into somewhat of a no-man’s land with few runners close enough to trade spots with. Still we pressed on towards the river, making tidy, efficient, business-like work of the 16 mile stretch. Poor Troy selflessly gave himself whiplash turning his head around so many times checking on me. Crossing the river on foot via cable no doubt was a highlight, expecting the cool baptism to stoke the competitive juices for the remaining 20 miles. Dang that felt great! Meredith, Jim, and pacer #2 Lee McKinley were on the far side and sprang into action with cold drinks, positive encouragement, and course updates. I felt ok, but continued to fight on. I welcomed the calories on the climb, but did not embrace spouse encouragement. It was here she decided I would be best motivated staying with Lee to the finish. Onward after a quick shoe change from Claytons to a fresh pair of Clifton 2s. THANK you Jim for the advice to stay with the same pair of socks which were working fine and just change shoes only, that worked great!
Living in Auburn, Lee knows the stretch from Green Gate to Highway 49 as well as anybody and we did our best to make it to Brown’s Bar without turning on our headlamps. We ALMOST made it, but not quite. After a quick encounter with some wildlife eyeballs on the Quarry Road, we kept the pace up, continually scanning ahead for headlamps and fading runners. None to be had unfortunately. The Highway 49 aid station could not come soon enough and my only focus was to grab my bottles and keep moving as at the time I thought that a sub-18 hour finish might still be possible. Nothing to be gained by lingering here. All I knew was I wanted to get up to the Meadow SO BAD!!! Lee caught up and we kept chipping away at the remaining 7 miles. At No Hands Bridge the reality of going over 18 hours set in yet as 2 good friends experienced at ultras we kept up the charge knowing full well that the quicker it’s over the closer we were getting to dinner!
Oddly, at the base of the Robie Point climb, we passed a runner and his pacer very slowly making their way up the climb. Hmmm…THAT’S interesting…Lee asked me if I knew who that was, to which I replied, “Lee, I think that was Jim Walmsley!” (2016 Bandera 100k and Lake Sonoma 50 champ and former race leader). You just never ever know what is going to happen and that is why you “NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP.” A 5th consecutive sub-24 hour finish is nothing to sneeze at, and Meredith and Troy enthusiastically greeted us at the Robie Point aid station for the quick jaunt on the pavement through the neighborhood to the track. While the day didn’t play out as we had hoped, collectively as a team we keep fighting for it and giving it our all.
All in all, I’m once again incredibly blessed and fortunate to be happy, healthy, and in great spirits. Meredith and I are SO eager to see what the 2nd half of 2016 has to offer up!!! HUGE thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for helping make these journeys possible. Mahalo for reading.