20 November 2011

Western States - in with the masses

Feeling the heat - Michigan Bluff, 2003

Let this be a reminder to myself.

This is me at Michigan Bluff the second time I ran Western States in 2003. The fact that the photo is in black and white does not take away from the actual colour of my face at the time - pale, drawn, and vacant. I was capital-D De-hy-dated and messed up. Badly. I have never been in a deeper hole. I vowed to never look like this again. Ever.

I consider myself a decent 100-mile runner, having achieved some pretty solid results and milestones over the past ten years of racing 100's: a sub-19 at Lost Soul, a 3rd place at Bighorn, the Grand Slam, and 5 loops of Hardrock. However, Western States has been an absolute nemesis for me. I have run it three times, and on every occurrence, it has scoffed at me and rubbed my face in the fine dust of California Street.

2001 was my first ever 100-mile race, when I was full of wide-eyed wonder and everything was mostly pretty good. I still got kind of smacked down that year and dragged my butt through the night towards a 26:07 finish. 

2003 was the devastating meltdown described above, but I bounced back to finish pretty strongly in 25:30, even dropping my pacer on the way from Highway 49 to No-Hands Bridge (sorry, Art!).

2006 was my most recent effort there, and was the first event of the Grand Slam that year. I was in great shape and primed - and overconfident in my abilities. I was on track for the 22-hour finish I knew I could do, but the exceptional heat that year beat me down into a writhing bag of pain. I couldn't run a step from Auburn Lake Trail aid station to the end, only being able to manage a stride length of about 6 inches. On the way up the hill from Robie Point, my pacer Wade asked me to describe how my legs felt. I told him my quads had been beaten with a ball-peen hammer and that someone had taken a wood planer to the soles of my feet. I lost six toenails before I ran the Vermont 100 three weeks later.
2006 - the Good: flying into Miller's Defeat

2006 - the Bad: "running" toward the High School

I was done with Western States. After three less-than-successful efforts there, it had beaten me and I moved on to other things - with better results, I might add. However, it has always rankled me to never have done well. I don't necessarily mean that I have never earned a silver buckle, although I know that deep down I am quite capable of it, but just that I haven't been able to crack the code that will lead to a satisfying personal success there, one where I can be content that I have done my best. 

Maybe it took a while to get over the failures, relatively speaking, at that race, but after watching the race unfold on the Net last year and seeing friends do so well there, the hype started making itself known inside me and a slow burn started. Long story short, I just clicked "Submit" on my entry into next year's Western States. Yes, I became entrant number 1737. For those not keeping track, that would be 1737 entrants in the lottery for about 350-ish race slots. Slim odds indeed. But if you don't enter, your chances are zero, so my odds are already looking up. Will I be devastated if I don't get in? Hardly, there are so many other interesting races I am keen to run that I would not be at a loss for something else to do. But it would be kind of cool to get back to Squaw Valley to seek some kind of closure to that particular course. And this time, I won't get De-hy-drated.


Sue said...

Bruce that sub 19 hour at Lost Soul blows my mind having run in it 26 and change this year. Unbelievable!! What's on tap for 2012?

lonerunman said...

Thanks, Sue. That Lost Soul race was the most magical I have ever run, where everything came together better than I could imagine. It was also good trail conditions, I know it can get super muddy if it is wet. It was so good, I don't think I can ever go back! :-)

Next year? Still working things out, I want to target Tor des Geants again in September, with a few "training" 100's thrown in during the year. The first will be in March, and then San Diego/Angeles Crest/Tahoe Rim/??? in early summer. I'm not sure yet, but better figure it out soon. No Hardrock this time, I wanted a change and to leave a spot open for someone else.

Nice to hear from you, I hope you have a great holiday season :-)


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