Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Digging Deep At The Western States 100

I’ve been told that a 100-mile ultramarathon can be a one day journey of every possible emotion a person can conjure. My first Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run this last Saturday confirmed that for me. I was brought to my knees, both physically and spiritually, but was able to rise again and again thanks to a new source of will and the support of my crew and friends. One run, two sunrises, and an infinite dose of appreciation for this race, this sport, and the amazing community behind it.

My journey to Western States has been a long one. It started four years ago when I applied for a lottery slot, only to miss it twice and become a “two-time loser” entry for 2008. The forest fires cancelled the race in 2008, so 2009 was my first shot to toe the line. It might sound frustrating, but it wasn’t since I was able to better prepare by racing a number of ultramarathons in that time. I had some good miles under my legs, some heat training, and my ecstatic crew, Brian Drue (my bro-in-law) and Dan Wheeler. My “A” goal was to go sub-22 hours, my “B” goal to get a sub-24 hour finish for the coveted silver buckle, my “C” goal to finish by the 30-hour official cutoff. With that, we rolled up to Squaw Valley a few days before June 27th.

The good news was that the week was packed full of events, including a very helpful session by John Medinger on “how to crew for Western States”. We learned all kinds of great tips, particularly as he emphasized “don’t forget to take care of yourself, not just your runner”. The day before the event was a lot of fun too. I really got a good sense of the history and unfathomable volunteer work behind Western States, whether it was Skip Swannick giving us a pep talk 30 years after being the first woman to break 24 hours, Shannon Weil (the first female finisher in 1978) and Karsten Solheim (11 time finisher, starting when he was 60) presenting the Friend of the Trail Award, or the amazing Mark Falcone who detailed the thousands of hours of volunteer work and cooperation with the Forest Service to get the trail in pristine shape. With so much passion behind this race, it’s no wonder it’s such an extraordinary event.

(Scott Jurek, Eric Skaggs, and Hal Koerner pre-race)

(Greg Soderlund, Shannon Weil and Karsten Solheim present the Friend of the Trail Award)
(Great weather!)
(Lots of team spirit!)

Talk amongst the runners was mostly about the weather report, predicted to climb into the 100’s. Many were making their projections about the elite runners too. On the men’s side the talk was about defending champion Hal Koerner, 7-time winner Scott Jurek who had returned after a four year hiatus, the unstoppable Dave Mackey, east coaster Leigh Shmidtt, local stars Eric Skaden and Mark Lantz, heat-loving Andy Jones-Wilkins, faster-than-ever Jasper Halekas, Montrail Ultracup leader Eric Grossman, fast and furious closer Victor Ballesteros, and two foreign runners, Tsuyoshi Kaburagi from Japan and Jez Bragg from the UK. For the women, many were wondering if the course experience of Nikki Kimball and Beverly Anderson-Abbs could fend off the challenges from Hardrock-record holder Krissy Moehl, Colorado speed demon Anita Ortiz, Oregon’s Jenn Shelton, and local stars Jenny Capel (current front-runner in the Montrail Ultracup Series), Jamie Frink, and Caren Spore. Whomever was to make the top 10 was going to have to earn it for sure.

(T-minus 4 minutes!)

At 5am, we counted off the last few seconds and charged up the hill. With so many spectators, it felt like a Tour de France stage! Really fun. That is, until the leaders went off course about a half mile in. Probably a little frustrating for those guys. ;-)

I kept an easy pace, hiking up Squaw Valley as the sun came up, and chatting with the runners around me. Past winner Graham Cooper was recently back from a stress fracture, and enjoyed the unpredictability of a day that could end anywhere from Escarpment to Auburn. Meghan Arbogast and Connie Gardner were showing few signs of their stellar performance at the World 100k the previous Saturday (Team USA brought home the gold), and were cruising along and enjoying the sights.

(Lush sections up top)

(At the peak)
(Only 96 miles to go!)
(Flash a smile to the cameras!)

We picked up the pace at Escarpment (mile 4) to avoid the mosquitoes, and before too long we were heading downhill. The single track was wonderful (thank you Mark Falcone!), and I ran along with Connie Gardner and got updates on the 100k race and her son getting ready for college. She’s pretty amazing! I wasn’t watching my pace much at this point, and just tried to stay comfortable. I tagged along with Steve “The Bomber” Ansell and Jenny Capel to Lyon Ridge (mile 10.5), where we got our first fuel of the day. They let us know we were just ahead of the 24-hour pace. Steve and I said “great!”, but Jenny felt it wasn't enough and kicked it up a notch, leaving us in the dust.

(Climbing out of Lyon's Ridge)

The scenery in the back country was breathtaking (or maybe that was the altitude?). I had the pleasure of running much of it with 7-time finisher and Western States Board Member Whit Rambach, who gave me a full history of the fires in the area. We were both happy to see that Red Star Ridge was making an amazing recovery, with plants and flowers sprouting up from the scorched earth. Rebirth and renewal everywhere we looked.

(It's getting toasty!)

I got my drop bag at Red Star Ridge (mile 16), just in time to add a handkerchief head dress and some more sunscreen. It was starting to get warm! Whit and I made our way through the exposed hills until we heard the music pouring from Duncan Canyon (mile 23.8). These guys were rocking! The volunteers had me gassed, sponged, and on my way faster than Jeff Gordon at a NASCAR race. I donned the headphones for the next section, listening to an honorarium playlist of Michael Jackson tunes such as “Burn This Disco Out” and “Got To Be Startin’ Something”. Perhaps I should have worn a memorial white glove too. ;-) The recently burnt forest was a hill of mesmerizing black skeletons that stood like tombstones, with life bursting at their bases. The circle of life was everywhere.

(The circle of life)

Somewhere in the hike up to Robinson Flat I caught a toe and went down on the rocks. My handheld water bottles saved me from heavy skin damage (and gave a great Bellagio-like water show when both bottles emptied their contents), but my camera took the brunt of the fall and died a quick and painless death. I shall miss you, sweet Olympus 340! Luis Escobar offered me a hand up, and together we shuffled into the party known as Robinson Flat (mile 30). This was the first time I would see my crew, and they were ready for me! I took a seat while they swapped out my food and water, loaded me up with ice, and sent me on my way. Zoom!

(Hal Koerner rips through Robinson Flat)

They also caught me up on the race. Dave Mackey had come in first, with Hal Koerner just on his tail. Scott Jurek was about eight minutes back, and the rest were already 15-20 minutes behind. Anita Ortiz and Bev Abbs were well ahead in the women’s race, and Jenn Shelton had limped in with a hip injury, seemingly out of the race.

(Refuel at Robinson Flat)

(Can a brother get some tree cover? Please?)

After a short climb, I hit the exposed ridge beyond Robinson Flat and began sucking in the heat of the day. The rocks were warming up, so it felt like a convection oven. It was hard to keep a quick speed without overheating, so I eased up a bit to balance it out. Miller’s Defeat (mile 34) came just in time since I was out of water, and for the first time I had slipped out of the 24-hour target finish time by about 12 minutes. I suspected this would be the case for the remainder of the day – the heat would keep me off pace, but hopefully I could make it up after Foresthill. I got another sponge bath, and trudged down towards Last Chance.

This section of the course was much hotter than I remembered, and the exposed sections were so toasty I began subconsciously holding my breath. The creeks were dry, so there was little assistance. I just started counting prime numbers to keep my mind off of it, sipping and savoring my water like a fine wine. I caught up to Marty Hoffman and Jimmy Dean Freeman and we pulled each other along to Last Chance (mile 43.8). I joined Dean Karnazes under the hoses of the volunteers, who informed us that the temperature had exceeded 105 degrees and was going to get hotter in the canyons. Sure enough, it was going to be one of THOSE States. ;-)

The volunteers were right – the farther we got into the canyon, the hotter it got. Dean charged right down into the heat, with a few runners behind him. The runners we passed were complaining of fairly serious problems – Tom had a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop, Brian Wyatt said his kidneys were throbbing, etc. I felt like Rocky (our Pug), breathing heavily out of my mouth and quickly slowing to a walk. When I reached the swinging bridge at the bottom, I was swerving and having trouble focusing. Ten steps later, all the condensation dissipated from my skin and my head felt like it was on fire. I got dizzy, fell to my knees, and vomited. Damn.

Dean helped me up to a small creek, where he was busy soaking himself every way he could. I pulled out my secret weapon – a 99 cent car wash sponge in my back pouch – and started dousing myself. After six or seven plunges, my head stopped pounding. I reached for a gel, but started dry heaving as soon as I saw it. Just then, another runner tumbled on the bridge, and we helped him to our little spring of hope. The best thing for me to do was just get moving, so I took one last soak and headed up the Devil’s Thumb climb with my pulse bulging out of my neck and head. It felt like it took forever to reach the top.

(AJ Wilkins gets a sponge shower at Devil's Thumb, photo courtesy of Matt Hart)

Devil’s Thumb (mile 48) was part MASH unit, part oasis. I only got halfway through my sentence when they took my weight (3 lbs under – 2 more and I would be forced to stop), whisked me under a tent, gave me a popsicle, and soaked the back of my neck with ice. These volunteers knew EXACTLY what to do. Whit Rambach came up and grabbed a few popsicles of his own, and others did the same. We quickly learned that “the Thumb” was taking its toll on many. Scott Jurek had dropped, and Wade Repta had blacked out on the way up. One woman told me that about one in four looked like me, and that I would be on my way in less than 10 minutes. I contemplated another hot canyon and wondered if it was wise to continue. But she was right, I felt better. Plus my crew would be at Michigan Bluff. Best to at least make it there.

I found a good shuffle speed heading into the next canyon, and kept leaning forward to keep the wind moving on my skin. Whit and I stopped at a nice water spot, which was enough to get us to El Dorado Creek (mile 52). It was tempting to stop and take a dip, but I noticed I was only 40 minutes off the 24-hour pace so I figured it was best to keep moving. As soon as the climb started, I began overheating again, and soon sprayed my half-digested snacks in one massive Technicolor yawn. The heat Beast was upon me again, so I just kept moving up the hill.

(Caren Spore hauls through Michigan Bluff)

I was overjoyed to see my crew at Michigan Bluff (mile 55), and they sat me down and doused me in ice-cold towels. I detailed some of my issues, but they said I was doing better than most. They got me up to speed on the leaders, who had passed through four hours previous. Hal Koerner and Dave Mackey were neck and neck, and Leigh Shmidtt was about 15 minutes behind them. Anita Ortiz had broken away from Bev Abbs with a 20 minute lead, and was looking good. I started feeling better, and the crew sensed it and began packing it up. “Let’s keep going,” Brian would say, “you’ll want to make it to Foresthill”. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, other than there were certainly some good beer drinking spots there if I should drop. They filled me up again, and I was on my way.

(Like seven inches from the mid-day sun)

The sun started to set over the hill, and the temperature dropped a few precious degrees. I signed a quick note on Dan Moore's poster, the founder of the Auburn Running Company who had died the day before, at the Bath Road aid station and used his positive thoughts to chug up the road to Foresthill with my crew. It was so much fun to see everyone at Foresthill! Friends, cohorts, and….wait a minute, that’s my 3-year-old! Sure enough, the family had come out to surprise me. I was instantly in perfect spirits. After a few kisses and change into night gear, my crew hustled me out of town. I was an hour and a half behind my 24-hour time, but thought there might still be a chance as the cool evening approached.

(Excited for some night running...and a fresh shirt)

(Crew master Brian gives a refill)

(My entourage! Brian, cousin Cameron, Dan, Me, Jen, Sophie, and Ryann...Christi taking photo)

(Got everything?)

(My crew takes me out of Foresthill)

The next section was one of my favorites, for it was here that I ran my first ultra in 2005. In a huge déjà vu moment, I caught up to Marty Hoffman, who had taught me how to run downhill at that very same race and was one of the first to tell me about Western States! It’s all your fault, Marty. ;-) I cruised quickly down the single track, making it to Dardenelles (mile 65.7) just as the sun went down. My stomach and head were a bit shaky, but I was still in this race, dammit.

I had hoped that the night would bring much cooler temperatures, but the rocks were still toasting the trail from below. I felt good in motion, but horrible when still. I got some refreshments at Dardenelles, but violently vomited about five minutes afterwards. Ten minutes after that, I was having trouble keeping water down. I fought my way to Peachstone (mile 70.7) where I knew my friends Dwight and Kate Morejohn would be to help sort it out. I honored their aid station by sitting down and immediately unlunching all over my shoes and their chairs. Niiiice.

(The "before" photo - me puking all over Kate's nice aid station)

(The "after" photo - Kate sends me on my way! Photos courtesy of Dwight Morejohn)

Kate was awesome, just patting me on the back and mixing a nice water/broth blend to settle my stomach. I could see they had 3-5 other runners in various stages of recovery, with a few flat out asleep. But they weren’t giving up, where they? HELL, no. Dwight gave me tons of advice and some tips on how to sight trails at night that worked wonders. Thanks to the good spirits of friends and volunteers, I got back on my feet and hit the trail again. But I had done the math in my head – I was now a scary 4% under weight, hadn’t held any calories for over five hours, and couldn’t even keep S! Caps down. To ensure I didn’t hurt myself, I would likely be throwing in the towel at the River Crossing.

The trail wound down to the river bank, and I could hear it all around me rushing like the wind. I entered this fascinating state of transcendence. At first I thought my headlight had gone out, since the darkness had closed in on that little square patch of light that had been my reality. But the darkness was everywhere, left, right, above, and even below my feet. My running felt effortless. It was like I was flying. The following thought just kept repeating through my head:
At your darkest moment, you shouldn’t fear the void
See it for what it truly is
An infinite pool of will and courage, as clear as spring water
Stare into it and see the reflection of your soul looking back
For many, this is the face of God
Look into her eyes
It’s full of stars
My God, it’s full of stars
Each time I repeated it, the face would appear in front of me. Each time she would smile back. Was she telling me it’s okay? Or was she laughing because I stole that last line from the movie A Space Odyssey:2010? This was a blissful state. I had no idea how I was moving forward, but I knew I was flying. The stars in her eyes kept getting brighter and brighter, until they emerge as the lights of the Rucky Chucky aid station (mile 78). Wow. How’s that for a guiding light?

(Crossing the river)

I pulled into Rucky Chucky higher than a kite in orbit. I don’t even remember them weighing me or what they said, just a lot of smiles and encouragement. I got an escort down to the river where I had the childish desire to play in the water. I debated whether to tell my crew that I was hallucinating and having a spiritual breakthrough of monumental proportions, but the sobering cold waters of the American River told me to just share the facts so we could figure out what to do. Brian and Dan got to work on my now-soaked shoes, and I told them I had thrown up everything since Dardenelles and was having trouble keeping water down. They paused with concern, but quickly broke it down. One cup of broth here, one cup of broth at Green Gate, and we’ll see how it goes. Dan said that another Vespa might do the trick, so we saved that for Green Gate.

We hiked up to Green Gate together, but not once re-addressing our decision. Their goal was to get me to the finish, and as long as we were moving forward, it was progress. Brian was great at getting me focused on the right goal – the “C” goal of finishing – and that I needed to pay attention to the three hour buffer I had. He was right that I couldn’t walk it in from here. There was still work to do.

At Green Gate, I took my broth and Vespa without any issues, and put a smile on my face for my crew. “I’ll see you at Hwy 49, and bring some sunscreen”. They smiled back with that half-concerned look that only true friends can deliver, and wished me well. I had my own goals for this stretch – find a rhythm, and/or find that darkness again. Find her face and see her laugh once more. Either I was going to make it to the finish, or have a helluva story to tell.

I cruised through the next section, much in thanks to Glenn Meeth and his cheery pacer, Tracy. She did a great job of talking about various things, then fitting in a "why don't we run to the next light". I didn’t dawdle on the calorie math anymore, but just tried to stay focused on a good pace. I came into Auburn Lake Trails (mile 85) feeling good and adding 15 minutes to my buffer, but flunked the medical test by being 8 lbs under weight (about 5%). They sat me down until I could drink three cups of broth, which took back 10 minutes of my gain. Alas! They were more concerned by my answer about the color of my urine, which was “I haven’t peed today, so I don’t know…but my vomit is nice and clear”. I got the dunce cap award for sure. I chugged down the broth, went on my way, promptly vomiting it all back up about a half mile down the trail.

Brown’s Bar (mile 90) was a great party, and I just cruised through with a quick refill of water and some Jolly Rancher candies. The Vespa was really kicking in now, so I had a nice mellow level of energy. The sun came up as I worked my way down to the American River once more, and the animals were all waking up. The circadian rhythm gave a nice little boost up the last climb. Such as fascinating experience to see two sunrises in one run.

At Hwy 49 (mile 93), Brian was in his running shoes and ready. We jogged through the beautiful area of Cool, CA, and he caught me up on the winners. Hal Koerner had held on for a repeat win, while Anita Ortiz powered through for a win in her first attempt at the distance (using only 36 gels!). He also let me know that my pal Jasper Halekas had gotten fourth, sneaking under 17 hours. Wow! Later I would learn that there was a three way race for M9 and M10, with Mark Lantz, AJ Wilkins, and Victor Ballesteros (who clocked the fastest time of the day between the river and the finish) within seconds of each other. Mark got M9, Andy got M10, and Victor got 11th – his consolation prize was that he won the Montrail Ultracup Series, which was the biggest payday of the day.

(Victor Ballesteros scores the payday)

(Karyn Hoffman gets the most outstanding homemade award)

At No Hands Bridge (mile 96), I officially ran out of gas so Brian and I walked it in. Dan joined us at Robie Point, and our exhausted bodies turned the corner to the track, I could barely contain my emotions. Oh, the places we had gone today! I could barely recount the person I was just 28 hours ago.

(The crew pulls me into the finish in 27:38)

And I couldn’t have done it without the crew, friends, volunteers, and others along the way. As I shared my journey with Jeff Riley (21:38 today), he summed it up well by saying “it may not have been the race you wanted, but it was the experience we are all secretly hoping to have”. He’s absolutely right.

(How hard do you have to push to get M10? Take a look at AJW's feet...yowza)

As I crossed the finish line and soaked my feet in the ice pool, it was clear that everyone had an amazing story whether they finished or not, or they had crewed, paced, or run. This was an epic day of adventure, survival, discovery, breakthroughs, camaraderie, and triumph of the human spirit. You could spend your whole life looking for a taste of any one of these things. Or you can spend one day to get enough of all of it to last a lifetime.

(Here's my buckle, and I'm going to wear it! Actually I need it to hold my pants up now that I'm 10 lbs under)

(Exhuasted but happy runners and crew)

My sincerest thanks to everyone who helped me get to the finish line. I know I've personally read the "I never would have made it" on many a blog, but I'm telling you, it's the truth (honest to blog!). I will drink a beer in each of your honor this week, that is, as soon as I can hold it down. ;-)


From the finisher page:

1M1Hal KoernerM33Auburn Finish Line100.209:24pm16:24:55Finished
2279Tsuyoshi KaburagiM40Auburn Finish Line100.209:52pm16:52:06Finished
3113Jez BraggM28Auburn Finish Line100.209:54pm16:54:26Finished
421Jasper HalekasM33Auburn Finish Line100.209:56pm16:56:26Finished
5401Kevin SullivanM38Auburn Finish Line100.209:59pm16:59:33Finished
629Zachariah MillerM33Auburn Finish Line100.210:34pm17:34:12Finished
7332Leigh SchmittM36Auburn Finish Line100.210:49pm17:49:37Finished
8M2Erik SkadenM37Auburn Finish Line100.211:22pm18:22:44Finished
979Mark LantzM43Auburn Finish Line100.211:45pm18:45:56Finished
10M4Andy Jones-WilkinsM41Auburn Finish Line100.211:46pm18:46:52Finished


122Anita OrtizF45Auburn Finish Line100.211:24pm18:24:17Finished
231Krissy MoehlF31Auburn Finish Line100.212:26am19:26:02Finished
3F2Beverley Anderson-AbbsF45Auburn Finish Line100.212:53am19:53:14Finished
4F1Nikki KimballF38Auburn Finish Line100.201:55am20:55:43Finished
5F4Caren SporeF41Auburn Finish Line100.202:17am21:17:22Finished
6F5Meghan ArbogastF48Auburn Finish Line100.202:33am21:33:36Finished
780Elizabeth VitalisF44Auburn Finish Line100.204:11am23:11:31Finished
8219Jamie FrinkF36Auburn Finish Line100.204:37am23:37:15Finished
9136Jenny CapelF36Auburn Finish Line100.204:49am23:49:27Finished
1032Connie GardnerF45Auburn Finish Line100.206:34am25:34:16Finished


  1. Wow! Congratulations on working through a rough day out there, and really earning that finish. Sounds like a harrowing experience, but it must also be rewarding as heck! Nice job, my friend.


  2. Congrats on the finish and great race report. That heat sounds brutal!

  3. Scott -

    Amazing race man. Great writing too! Truly an unbelievable adventure. With less than 3 weeks to my first 100 at Tahoe Rim, I had 2 questions. First, how did your dad make it to all the aid stations? My girlfriend is a diehard crewer and is trying to figure out how he found a way to hike into all the non-crew aid stations. Also, how did this compare to your time at the TRT100. I was reading both (from 2007) and your WS100 2009 - they seem like very different races.

    Congratulations man! Keep it up!

  4. You are an inspiration! I love the way your report combines the joy and the pain so realistically. Some day that will be me! Congratulations again, for an epic run!

  5. I'm exhausted just reading. Congrats on making it through.

  6. Scott, all I can say is that I am proud to have shared the trail with you on this day. You exemplify the spirit of this event and of our chosen sport.

    Cheers, Paul

  7. I have been checking the blog over and over. Could not wait to hear how it went for you! I stumbled over your blog over a year ago and really enjoy your stories!! I was on vacation( I live in Auburn) and cut it short by several days just to get back to watch the Western States. myself being a newer runner am just amazed at what you all accomplished. Congratulations on your huge accomplishment!

  8. I'm speechless. Thanks for the honest and amazing recap.

  9. Wow, what an epic run, Scott, and a way to tough it out and not quitting when your body had enough. Sorry for this painful introduction into the Western States legend, but glad you made it to the finish, amazing! I thought I had dug deep but my run seems like a walk in the park in comparison. So many inspiring stories come out of this trail, year after year... Take care.

    Farther Faster

  10. awesome job! and, another great read!

  11. Thanks again for showing the way. Hoping to follow in your footsteps.

  12. Wow, that was a captivating read. I kept finding myself in tears thinking, "Oh God I hope he's okay, I hope he makes it!" Then I remembered I already knew that you finished. ;)Oh yeah.
    What an amazing day Scott. I know the "C goal" isn't what we hope for, bu I have to agree with Jeff's summation that it was the experience we all secretly hope to have. If pushing our limits helps us find out who we really are, it sounds like you learned a lot out there. I am truly impressed with you.

  13. Scott, Congrats man..you are the man..I have been following your blog for 6 months and your race reports are the best. You did it and you should be proud..Keep it up and thanks for letting us see through your eyes what this epic journey is like...Take care

  14. Honest to God, man, I'm speechless. You are a force to be reckoned with.

    I can't wait to hear about it in person.


  15. Awesome job Scott! Thanks for the detailed story, I felt like I was running the race with you.
    Side note: That was my beautiful and amazing family out there at mile 23.8!

  16. Big congratulations on an amazing achievement. I have been following your progress on the blog from here in the United Kingdom really enjoy reading your posts. Keep it up!! You continue to inspire those of us who are making the transition from marathon to ultra! Happy running! All the best.

  17. What a great(as usual) write up of WS100.My hubby & I worked mile 78(RC riverXing)and had one helluva ...amazing expierience.We saw you come through and you looked good,tired...pale but good. Its funny you said at the river crossing you had a child like expierience.It was Chuck.G's kid who led you from our aid to the river...hehehe anyway awesome finish.A true inspiration.

  18. Wow! Great performance and great report! I'm impressed that you could remember all that.

    I especially liked the description of your transcendant experience. Who would have guessed that running 100 miles is really a vision quest?



  19. christopher mcdougall7/01/2009 03:48:00 AM

    for all of us watching from a distance, this year's WS was as spellbinding as battle dispatches from the troops overseas. thanks for the virtual-reality experience, and a big old chest bump for your buckle. i'm blown away by the intelligence of both your race and your reporting.

  20. Hi Scott, Mac and I were following you online and thinking about you all day. Glad to hear you finished and had a great experience along the way.


    -Mac, Betty, Jonas

  21. Wow!! Truly a remarkable accomplishment. Talk about tough, that's what you are! Congratulations!

  22. Thanks for sharing your story. It is very inspirational. Congratulations for finishing. Hope to see you at the finish line some day.

  23. Scott, what an awesome race! On a day that brought a lot to their knees, you kept pushing and got it done. That's what it's all about!

  24. I was training for Death Ride and followed everyone's progress throughout the day. With some of the biggest names in Ultra Running dropping out you should be beyond proud of your accomplishment. This was a hot day and to see what people went through to finish is very inspiring.

    I am now looking into qualifying races with the hopes of earning my own buckle one day.

    Great report!

  25. congrats Scott. Way to fight it out to the finish!!

  26. Scott, good work getting through this one. I can't believe it is over after so many months (years) of planning/trianing. It was fun chatting with you on trial in the high country. Hope to see you on trail again!

  27. Sounds like an epic experience! Way to stick it out and get to Auburn in one piece. Impressive!!

  28. I love following your blog! Great writing! Congratulations on an incredible WS!

  29. I love following your blog! Always great writing and this is the best about WS! Congratulations on an incredible race!

  30. Thank you Scott for your beautiful story. I had tears in my eyes as I read it! Great job!!

  31. Fantastic report and great photos, too. Thanks to your sharp eye for detail, I could picture your journey through the miles and found the report completely captivating. Way to go!

  32. Congrats Scott. I've been following your blog since 04' and have been waiting for this race report for a long time. I'm so excited for you. You did it man!

  33. Scott:

    Besides being able to read your enjoyable narrative, what a post like this does is it helps a person like me, who is training to run his first 100 at the Angeles Crest in September, be better prepared mentally for what could happen, and take nothing for granted.

    Here you are, a runner who speeds through all sorts of other races, and you are confronted with definite physical challenges throughout a large part of the WS100 that do all they can to slow you down and attempt to defeat you.

    You share a lot about all this, so someone like me knows what could happen, but most helpful, despite all these challenges, you persist and finish.

    It is more valuable probably than what I may learn from someone who had few issues and placed in the top 10, for my experience will probably more closely mirror yours.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post your experience and reflections.

    For everyone that actually responds on your blog, there are probably many others who read it, get a lot out of it, and never post anything. Your sharing helps us all.

    Thank you, Scott.

    Great job out there. Very inspirational.

    And when I am fighting through the tough spots during my AC100 in September, your example will support me through. God willing.

    Take care, and best to you.


  34. Wow. Congratulations on an epic journey and thank you so much for sharing the build up and the main event!

    When your brain cells recover it would be great to hear about what the recovery period was like starting with crossing the finish line. What did you eat? How did you celebrate? How long did you sleep, etc.

    Also, more thoughts on what went right and what went wrong? You were obviously in killer shape, were your expectations too high given the heat? I am sure you are already thinking about another one, so what would you do differently in training?

  35. Thank you so much for sharing your story! An ultrarunning friend posted this on Facebook and it was such an inspiration. I'm new to ultrarunning... when I started running, I wasn't sure if I could run a marathon. When I did my first 50K I wasn't sure if I could do a 50 miler (we'll test that one in Nov). Right now I don't know if I could do 100, but man do stories like yours make me start thinking. Congratulations!

  36. Wow, Scott. Just...wow.

    Thanks for sharing with us your grueling, but inspirational race report of WS100. Loved being able to live vicariously through your eyes and lens (sorry about the camera btw).

    A sub-28:00 is a great time considering what your body was going through and the conditions you had to deal with.

    Rest up buddy - you've earned it!

    ps - great new photo on the top of the page!

  37. Scott,
    Congrats on your WS100 finish! Awesome race report! Hope I get a chance to run it some day.

  38. Great race report! One of the best I've read so far. We met briefly at Peachstone while I was reviving my runner. He was the one laying down taking a power nap next to you in the photo. It was a priceless experience just working at Duncan Canyon and pacing from Foresthill to finish. I can't wait until it is my turn to take on the WS challenge! There is a certain magic that exists at Western States. I find it hard to put into words. Congratulations on your finish and I look forward to seeing you on the trails!

    Jason Jones

  39. Holy cow! I just stepped out of a meeting to see if anyone left a comment. You guys are AWESOME!

    Quick replies:

    Zach - Good luck at TRT! My Dad is a climbing fool, so he enjoyed getting to the aid stations. Basically he came to the start, then drove to the Tunnel Creek trail and immediately hiked up (where he saw me twice, before and after the Red House loop), then hiked down and drove to Ophir Creek, then back to Tunnel Creek again. All one more time for the second lap! It's a good workout for the crew. Your second question is spot on - they are two different races. TRT has more altitude and that dreadful second hike up Snow Peak, but WS has the heat. Most people tell me TRT is harder by 1-2 hours, but I think WS was tougher for me.

    KiwiPaul - Your guidance from the training runs really came in handy. Thanks for everything! I hope your injury is healing.

    Jean - You crushed it! Nobody had an easy run out there. Well done.

    Robert - Thanks for the words of encouragement. It's hard to believe the elites finished ten hours ahead of me, but I bet they had plenty of issues too. When I spoke with many of them who stayed to cheer the 28-30 hour finishers, they just couldn't believe everyone was out there for so long toughing it out. There is a lot of respect going all ways.

    Hardly five minutes goes by that I don't contemplate this experience. I'm still trying to make sense of it all. I really appreciate all of you leaving your thoughts and well-wishes!


  40. Incredible running and fascinating writing - not to forget the best pictures out there. Well done Scott! Thanks for letting us into a glimpse of your experiences. This is why I look to your blog first. Recover well and I look forward to many more adventures.

  41. I for one was disapointed in the report!! Why? Because I wanted it Sunday night!!!! I thought you were tough. How come I had to go to your blog 15 times over the last 3 days to finally see the report?

    Of course you know I'm kidding about the tough part but you had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how you did and what you experienced. Thanks for another great report and I hope your feeling physically well and mentally excited about what you accomplished in that weather. Like Nerendra I to would like to know how you are recovering and answers to the rest of her questions when you have a chance. Again, congrats for helping this neophyte learn what it takes to be a class act and athlete. Fitz

  42. Scott - thank you so much for your awesome blog and especially this race report. I am in awe! I've been wimping about a 28 miler last weekend and this makes me want to get fit enough to kill a 100 miler. Great job!

  43. Looks like Nikki Kimball had a similar experience.

  44. Narendra - I'm still getting my arms around what I could have done better. But here's what I've figured out so far:

    Recovery - As soon as I crossed the finish line, the goal became "how long until I could stomach some solid food". It only took about an hour of soaking my feet in cold water, sitting in the shade, and drinking Gatorade before I could wolf down a pancake and some eggs. Then my crew drove me to a hotel room to shower, load up on supplements, get a massage, and take a 2 hour nap. I've since been taking ibuprofen, ice baths 1-2x day, and wearing compression gear to assist in recovery. But I'm both hands on the stairs still. ;-)

    What could have gone better - First off, I never even contemplated 110+ degree heat in the canyons and that was a rookie mistake. I think it would have been good to do more heat acclimation, such as spending all day in heat gear rather than 1-2 hours tops. Second, I would definitely carry more water in the canyons - two big bottles, and perhaps a camelpack. When vomiting, I found that a cup of 1/2 water and 1/2 broth, followed by 1/2 water and 1/2 ginger ale settled best. Once I got that rhythm, it was easier to come back from an upset stomach.

    I would practice more night running for sure, especially having both a headlight and a handheld to cast shadows on rocks. Training wise, I wouldn't have changed much in terms of mileage and workouts - my legs held up great, and I'm evenly sore.

    My crew is writing up their thoughts too, and I'll post a bunch of it. Would love any armchair analysis from the crowds too!


  45. Scott, congrats and I'm so glad that you finished. I'm used to being with a faster crowd on the downhills, but when a "bomber" like me starts passing people on a steep climb, I know it's a tough day out there. After passing Brian Wyatt, Harry Walther and then seeing you at the top of Devil's Thumb, I felt so bad. Nobody should have to be passed on an uphill by someone as poor a climber as I am.

    I continued to have a good day all the way until mile 70 when my own stomach finally revolted. I think I have a very similar picture of me sitting next to Kate looking pretty much the same as you did at Peachstone. Unfortunately, I was snoozing in the med tent when you crossed the finish line and I missed it.

    Congrats again and nice job toughing it out!

  46. Great account of your adventure at WS100. You looked and sounded very coherent when I encountered you at Green Gate. I was the guy who was making sure that everyone made a right turn after the gate to stay on the trail rather then running up Sliger Mine road. Truly an amazing accomplishment given the conditions this year. By the way, we measured the temperature at Green Gate at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and it was 112 degrees.

  47. Holy Cow Scott - you got some grit! Would love to hear the tips you got for night running/trail sighting when you catch your breath. We really enjoy your writing style and appreciate your sharing. ~~Marcy & Rock

  48. Scott, I've been following your blog for a year now. As a fellow trail runner I love reading your posts. I was rooting for you and followed your progress during the race. Great job! I was glad to see that you finished with those tough conditions. Way to go!

  49. Dude,

    Great job. I was working the aid station at Duncan Canyon; I'm the one that yelled "add us in your blog!"

    You looked strong at that point; I'm so amazed what that course can do to people. Hopefully I will be able to experience it for myself soon.

  50. Scott (and Eudemus)- it was so great to see you coming in thru the dark at Peachstone- and it was great to help you.
    So glad you finished! Recover well...

  51. Great performance and a great report!

  52. Great report, Scott! I followed you the whole day...and night! I've been a reader for awhile now, but don't think I've ever commented.

    Congrats on your great finish! I hope to someday follow in your path.

  53. I've been following your blog for a while from Israel. Ran my first 50 miler this year and I've read a fair bit about WS.

    Great effort to finish and a brilliant report.


  54. Scott - Congratulations on the WS100 finish and thanks for the enjoyable, insightful, and personal report.

    The human spirit is quite amazing. Thanks for sharing yours with the rest of us.

    Enjoy the recovery!

  55. Huge congratulations to you for finishing this incredible event. Thank you for taking us along with you.

  56. That was a most awesome report for an epic run, Scott. Admit that it was more memorable for being unusually hellacious. Maybe I'm talking out of my ass, but you and the others who had a tough time sort of sort of make me hope my first States isn't too smooth. I love your sense of humor even as you are about to keel over (and go into renal failure)-- "but my vomit is nice and clear." You integrated the leaders' race very well too.

  57. What a race, Scott! Congratulations. Your reports continue to provide a world of inspiration. If you ever consider Texas for an ultra (avoid the summer if you don’t want to relive the tripe digit heat experience), make sure to give us a heads up!

  58. Way to go Scott! I passed you coming up from the river, I was heading down to get my runner, and you looked like you were doing alright. Glad to hear that everything turned out OK despite the rough spots. Hope you are enjoying some well earned rest.

  59. Scott,
    Plan "C" for courageous! Most people think that WS100 is easy because in the profile it looks as though is all donwhill. People who think that have never ran WS100 in 100 degree weather or more. You stuck it out despite your low lows; that was awesome and inspiring. Congratulations!


  60. What an accomplishment! As a new runner, I love hearing about people's ups and downs through an experience like this - I think activities like trail running help us physically and mentally, and I am inspired by your efforts!

  61. Scott,
    Congratulations on sticking it out. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and get it done. I admire how you adjusted your goals correctly, not everyone can do that. You are a finisher and a winner. Never forget your experience out there. The first one is always the best in so many ways...you'll be back and will get that silver.

    Kathy Martin

  62. Great job working through a very tough day Scott. It looked pretty brutal out there. Gave me flashbacks to the one and only time that I ran it. Way to survive and finish.

  63. Two things that were common amongst the runners I spoke with was 1)not over hydrating before the canyons and not keeping up with water/electrolytes during the canyons. 2) Going out way too fast on the first half. At Duncan Canyon the leaders came in 30 minutes faster than expected. Way too fast I think. Especially since most records were not broken this year. No heat training was another big factor as well.

  64. Scott,
    Great story, I hope one day to be a finisher at WS100 too!

  65. Congratulations, Scott. Your fans over in Pleasanton are still cheering for your awesome run and finish. What an accomplishment!

  66. Got to love those hallucinations!

    Fantastic job, Scott. You persevered and gutted it out, rather than bailing out when the going got tough.

    BTW, I see you used the Brunton mega-light. How did you like it?

  67. You rock! you finished a race with, like a 50% drop-out rate (many running icons included). You inspire us other average, mere mortal people!

  68. Were there and raw food athletes in the race?

    Jim from Raw-Food-Repair.com

  69. Scratch-I am so proud of you, we all are. I can't wait to talk to you about it, and hug your skinny, bad self. Hope you are putting your feet up (you likely need a pedi,ps)chillin,and eating everything in sight. Much love, Kik

  70. Scott~

    Great post! That's some serious tenacity through an extremely tough day, man. Great job! I feel silly complaining about some bee stings in yesterdays 50k! I need to toughen up for 2011. :)



  71. Wow, great recap! Congratuations on a job well done. I have no idea how you do it, but think it's amazing!

  72. Great recap Scott. I think I got more of my money's worth than even you!!!(I finished 28:47). The heat in the initial stages made me slow down in the Canyons so a dignified hike. I made up some time on the downhills. Now this will make you mad - I got no blisters and never threw up (the gift of going slow)...seeing my family at the four major aid stations was a huge plus!

  73. How strange (maybe not in a good way) that we had such similar experiences. I admit to being fairly shocked to see you in the same finish group as me at the awards. I know you had a much faster race in you than I could have on my best day, but that's how it goes sometimes, I guess. Way to tough it out and make it to the finish.

    I'm doubly impressed that you were able to keep tabs on the "real" race at the front of the pack in the midst of all your difficulty.

    Let's do this again sometime, hopefully under better circumstances.

  74. Nice...
    Will you do it again?

  75. I would absolutely do it again! It's two weeks later, and I'm still "high" from the whole experience. My toes look like somebody took a hammer to them, but the rest of me is recovering nicely.

    Unfortunately I'm not quite fast enough to earn a slot, so I'll start the lottery process again. Even if I'm not in, however, I would like to come up and be a part of the event. Perhaps it's my time to crew!


  76. I had kept tabs on the WS100 feed (when it wasn't crashing) and had a smile on my face when I saw your finishing time appear. You did good Scott. :-)

  77. Awesome write up, Scott. I just found your blog so I didn't know if you made it or not, and it had me on the edge! I'm what you'd call a couch potato but I read Born to Run recently (and I can't help but notice that the author commented here) and it's got me really interested in ultras-- especially off-road ones like WS100. I've never run more than 3.5 miles at a time in my life but I want to set out to do a marathon next year and an ultra the year after that. I'll be following your blog for inspiration!

  78. Just re-read this for a 2nd time. What a day, what a write up.

  79. I haven't even read this yet, but I know I'm going to love it.
    So..am I fooling myself? Can I do this?
    I'm a 55 yo male, have been been a runner most of my life and the last 5 years have gotten into Triathlons, and more recenlty have done a couple of ultra's. I've read a number of post about Western States 100 and call me crazy, but I am so drawn to doing this. How oh how can I pull this off? Where do I start? I'm open to suggestions.

  80. Wow..Amazing! Thank you so much for blogging this. Okay..here's the deal. I've read a number of these posts, and each time I read, in particular about the Western States 100, I am SOOOO drawn to it! Can an old guy like me actually do this? I've been a runner most of my life and for the last 5 years have been doing triathlons. This year will be my 1st Ironman. I've done one ultra last year and have another one coming up in two weeks, 37 miles. I love the training, I love the long miles...but...how in the world do you keep your marriage together knowing that you've got to do long LONG miles on the weekends? And why...WHY is this sooo stinking appealing? sigh..thanks!

  81. trimoot -

    Remember how CRAZY that first tri felt? But you planned, trained, and nailed it. Same with States - it's absolutely doable with the right preparation.

    The hardest part is getting in - start signing up for those lotteries now! You'll be in good shape by the time you see your name on the entry list.



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