Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Scenes from the Western States Training Weekend

I ran day #1 of the Western States Training Weekend on Saturday (32 miles from Robinson Flat to Foresthill), and was sure glad I did. Not only did I get to meet some really neat people, but I got some first hand experience in the canyons. It was eye-opening, to say the least. Let's just say I'm going to be pulling back a bit on that 20-hour finish goal. ;-)

(Over 250 runners...load 'em up!)

(Gretchen and Catherine at the start)

Greg Soderlund gave us a quick overview of the day, and we loaded onto the buses at 8am. I had the fortune to sit next to Gordy Ainsleigh (the original Western States pioneer), his co-pilot Michelle Barton (one of the fastest women on the ultra circuit), and Mark Matyazic (adventure racer extraordinaire). We shared stories of the Bay to Breakers, and I mentioned how I was contemplating going "near nude" next year. Gordy let me know a properly placed gym sock is both fashionable and functional, as he found out when posing nude at a local art school and needing "minimal coverage". I get the impression Gordy has endless stories like this!

(Gordy Ainsleigh and Michelle Barton)

The buses arrived, and we charged out into the snow. Just a few patches this year, and we quickly found our way to the Western States trail. There were a couple hundred of us, so we weren't hard to spot! I caught up with Brian and Sophia Robinson, Whit Rambach, and a whole host of characters from Vancouver, BC, to Houston, TX. For some this was a training run, but for many this was a trail running vacation!

(Michelle and Gordy gear up for the race while Mark stretches out)


(A little bit of snow to start us off)

(A great day for running!)

Paul Charteris was my guide for much of the first section, sharing his incredible knowledge of this trail and pointing out all the great views. It was really helpful to get the lay of the land and some history.

(Looking down into the canyons)

At the aptly named Dusty Corners, we fueled up for our first canyon descent. The large fire roads were quite runnable, but you had to pay attention to catch the turns to the single track. I was glad to see this now rather than on race day!

(Paul and I join the food rush at Dusty Corners)

(Descending into the first canyon)

The descents were deceivingly runnable, meaning you could keep a great pace but your quads would take a beating. The heat (probably in the 80's) became oppressive the more you descended, until the oasis of the river rushed up to greet us. I was more than happy to take a quick dip, imaging how 20 more degrees would make this really tough.

(Chilling at the river)

(Crossing the swinging bridge)

(Michelle and Mark cross the swinging bridge)

(Devil's Thumb eats hamstrings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

Devil's Thumb (or Middle Finger as many were suggesting) was STEEP, and I don't think the elevation map does it justice. I was beginning to see why the canyons are so well-revered. I got up it in about 33 minutes, counting the 41 switchbacks to the top. Gretchen and Luis were there to take care of us at the aid station, where iced water and watermelon hit the spot.

(Feel the burn...)


I caught up to Jon Kroll (he is my trail soulmate, I swear) and we descended down to El Dorado Canyon, where I went for the full plunge into the creek. Very refreshing! Just like Gordy said, "it's like living water".

(Aaaaahhh...)


(Grant Carboni leaves the creek refreshed and ready for the march to Michigan Bluff)

We ran a good chunk of the next climb, refueling at Michigan Bluff before heading into the final stretch. Jon pulled me up Bath Road, much like he had at Miwok, and we jogged into the party at the finish.

(Heading towards Volcano)

We had some Jamba Juice, some Zico coconut juice (more potassium than a banana...thanks, Paul!), and chilled in the shade. What a day!

This was a tough 32 miles all by itself, let alone as part of a 100-mile run. It took me over six hours to finish, and my quads are still burning. I'm so glad I had a chance to come out here and check it out a month before the big day. Time for more hills, some heat training, and some tapered finish time expectations. ;-)

Great to see everyone out there!

SD

Friday, May 22, 2009

Montrail Ultracup Standings Going Into 2009 Western States


The Montrail Ultracup consists of the best of three races of six, plus Western States from the following schedule:

2008-2009 Montrail Ultra Cup Schedule

07/26/08 White River 50 mile Crystal Mountain, Washington
11/01/08 Mt. Masochist 50 mile Lynchburg, Virginia
11/22/08 JFK 50 Washington County, Maryland
03/14/09 Way Too Cool 50 km Cool, California
04/04/09 American River 50 mile Sacramento, California
05/02/09 Miwok 100 km Marin Headlands, California
06/27/09 Western States 100 mile Auburn, California

There's cashola on hand and some good prizes ($2,500 for the winners, prizes for top 5, jackets for those who complete it). They recently posted the results of everyone who qualifies, meaning each of the below has completed three of the six qualifying races, has entered those races on the Web site by the May 16th deadline, and have a slot for Western States (see guidelines).

Here are the standings; lowest score is better, scores are calculated based on your finish place:

Men:
1. Eric Grossman - 6 points
2. Victor Ballesteros - 14 points
3. Joseph D'Allesio - 34 points
4. Mark Lantz - 41 points
5. Graham Cooper - 64 points
6. Scott Dunlap - 122 points
7. David Rhodes - 16o points
8. Mark Winkelman - 230 points
9. John Catts - 242 points
10. Kevin Hume - 363 points
11. Charley Jones - 564 points

Women:
1. Jenny Capel - 182 points
2. Suzie Lister - 238 points
3. Lori Heinselman-Craig - 748 points

Check out Eric Grossman - what an animal! Single digits, baby. Plus the Western States score is divided by two, so he's looking pretty good. Rumor has it that Victor Ballesteros is supposed to be getting married the week before States, but I suspect a supportive fiancee might let him slip in one more race. ;-)

It looks like my fate is a jacket (assuming I finish States), but that's cool by me. I'm a shwag hag, jacket-lovin' fool. I thought of having my crew pull a Jeff Gilloly/Nancy Kerrigan by waiting at Cal 2 with a baseball bat, but it would only garner me a pair of flip-flops for 5th. Consider yourself lucky, Lantz!

Given the prize purse, I was surprised to see that both of these lists were so short. There's not even enough on the Women's side to claim all the prizes! I think last year, there were only a couple of men who got through the whole thing. What gives? Well, it turns out there are two tough barriers before the racing even starts. First, you have to get IN all of the races. Second, you have to START and FINISH them. That doesn't leave much room for error, particularly for those who train and race hard at each of these races and risk a DNF or injury. So it's extra impressive that the above folks can race with such consistency. And Grossman is just flat out insane.

Montrail does give away prizes, patches, and other goodies for folks who only finish one or more of the races. All you have to do is register! Some new rules/prizes are coming for next year, so if any of these races are on your calendar, be sure to register your results for some shwag!

- SD (the schwag hag)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RIP Steve Larsen, 1970-2009

For those who didn't hear, triathlete and endurance athlete Steve Larsen died suddenly yesterday while training with a group of runners in Bend, OR. For those of us who knew how fit he was, it's quite a shock to hear. He was an amazing athlete, coach, and father. I'll miss him.

I had met Steve at the Pacific Crest Triathlon, the Haulin' Aspen Trail Marathon, Vineman, and numerous endurance events. He was always friendly and fun, and had plenty of time for us newbies in the sport. If you could keep up with his blistering pace, he had lots of great stories of being part of the Motorola cycling team with Lance Armstrong, his numerous Xterra and Mountain Bike victories, breaking into the world of Ironman triathlon with a victory at Lake Placid, etc. These stories were only trumped by the joy he showed when talking about his five kids, age 2-13. He was extraordinary in many ways. Dan Empfield at slowtwitch.com does a great recap of his life and career, and his devotion to his wife of 16 years.

I haven't found a memorial fund for him yet, so if anyone hears anything, please post a comment. In the meantime, I'm sure his family would appreciate any purchasing on Steve's online tri site called worldtri.com.

All my best to his friends and family.

- SD

[photo courtesy of the Bend Bulletin]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nakedness at the 2009 Bay to Breakers


Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining 33,000 runners for the freakfest known as the 98th annual Bay to Breakers 12k in San Francisco, CA. This “must do” event is one of the biggest costume parties in the US, running point-to-point from downtown SF to the ocean where the Footstock concert will be in full swing. We had a gorgeous sunny day, plenty of naked people sitings, and beer at 9am. What more could one ask for?

I started the day early, parking at the finish line to watch the sunrise at the beach and run the course backwards. My brother-in-law, Brian Drue, would be waiting at the start and ready for his 7th consecutive B2B. The streets of SF were eerily calm at 6am, short of a few cops already issuing tickets to keg-toting revelers. I guess the race PR about “getting more strict about open containers” was not just spin! I was glad to see it, actually – last year got a bit out of control with rolling kegs and discarded giant Trojan horse floats. But given the expected 100,000+ spectators and 80 degree weather, the law was definitely going to have an endurance event of their own even with scaled back expectations.

video

Brian was at the start, already sweating thanks to a wine hangover from a charity event the night before. “It’s just 12k”, he kept repeating while surfing the ebb and flow of wine-induced nausea. The tortillas and beach balls were flying around (a B2B tradition), and the costumes and runner-constructed floats were marvelous. We had no goals for the race other than to take it all in and enjoy the party.

(30,000+ ready to roll!)

(Stay away from Team Swine Flu)

The volunteers waived me through to the front thanks to my seeded number (don’t get too impressed – you can get a seeded number too with a fast enough qualifying time). I found myself standing right next to Deena Kastor, the Kenyans, the Cal-Aggies uber-fast centipede team (they clock 5:30 minute miles roped together), and was immediately sized up by all the gazelles thanks to my low number (#86). Once they saw the camera in my hand, they knew I wasn’t taking any prizes today and smiled and introduced themselves.

(In the seeded corral...not the centipede runners tied together)

It was fun to live vicariously as a superstar for a few minutes! But given how fast they were striding out during their warm up I would be lucky to hang with them for two blocks. Even the guy in the head-to-toe pink ape suit was looking pretty fast.

(Deena Kastor, eventual Women's winner Teyba Erkesso #15, and the elite women get ready as the Pink Gorilla warms up)

The elite women went first, and five minutes later we were off! Sure enough, I couldn’t even hang with the pack for the first block so I pulled over to wait for Brian who was just a few corrals behind me. One minute later, the streets were packed with costumes, naked people, and live music. I could have sworn we were in the front 500 people - where did they all come from?!?


(And they're off!)

(Look at that pink ape go! That's Tommy Greenless of Walnut Creek, CA, who got 90th overall and first in the ape division)

(Baring it all)

We found a nice 8 min/mile pace, fast enough to keep up but slow enough to enjoy the sights. The Flintstones were “rocking” out, Popes were on ladders giving high fives, DJ’s were spinning naked from the roofs of their apartments, Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders stopped mid-race to break into a cheer, Gladiators got in sword duels with the Knights of the Round Table (pizza, that is), Darth Vader told us to “run on the dark side…here in the shade!”, and the Drag Queens were everywhere. I’ve heard visitors call California the land of fruits and nuts…yep, that pretty much sums it up. Such a great place to call home!

(Wearing nothing but a balloon and a smile!)

Nakedness was everywhere, whether it be a sequin thong, head-to-toe green paint (SPF 30 let’s hope), or the preferred “hat and sunscreen only” look worn by the Bare to Breakers runners. Given the impressive lack of tan lines, I suspect this wasn’t their first streak through San Francisco. The temperature climbed quickly into the 80’s, and I suspect a few folks became naked converts just to stay cool.

(Full frontal naked...and nobody even blinks an eye)

(Sheesh...naked everywhere!)

Hayes Hill was HOT. So many times I’ve done this race looking forward to Hayes just so I could warm up and feel my fingers, and this year was like a sauna! I thought Brian was going to pass out for sure, but he focused on short strides and gave high fives to the salmon headed the other way (they run the course backward every year). The ocean air gave us some reprieve at the top, and we began the long descent down Fell St.

(Brian leads us up the steamy Hayes St hill)

(The salmon migrating upstream)

(Sweaty naked!)

The shady lanes of Fell St were great, and Brian broke his hangover fever around mile 5 and instantly perked up. We took it easy cruising through the park and talking about family (his girls are a few years older than mine, so he’s a fountain of daddyhood knowledge), Western States (he’s the captain of my crew), The Death Ride (I’m his “domestique” to return the favor), and the simple pleasures of a enjoying a city that’s not afraid to let it all hang out once or twice a year.

(Balloons!)

(Aaahhh...shade!)

Before we knew it, we made the final turn at the beach and finished in 1:01:30. It could be Brian’s slowest time, but it was one of my fastest! Certainly not as fast as Kenyan Sammy Ketwara, who won in 33:31. (another fun summary video here)

(At the finish with my bro-in-law)

We drank a ton of water, accidentally wiped our hands with Salonpas spray (it looked a lot like hand cleaner…now we’re sweaty and numb!), and made our way to Footstock for some beers and snacks. Thanks to our early finish we got a coveted table in the beer garden, and instantly made all kinds of friends both old and new. I caught up with Glen Kacher, a classmate from Stanford, and we all enjoyed some brewskies and breakfast. By 10am, it was time to head home. I had that ultrarunner shock of being done so early – we should only be two aid stations in at this point in the day! Ah, it sure is nice to mix it up.

Back at home, Sophie joined her cousins in some kiddie pool romping before luring me to Alice’s Restaurant for a surprise 40th birthday party. Here I thought the black balloon revelry was done! I got to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in ages, and page through an awesome scrapbook that Christi put together showing me getting in all kinds of trouble over the last 40 years. Sophie proved to be the only bigger troublemaker, racing around with my friend’s wonderful children, eating all the raspberries and lettering off the cake before we could finish cutting it up, and somehow losing her underwear along the way. I guess we’ll start her scrapbook pronto!

(A polaroid taken at the surprise party, with Sophie well into her sugar high)

I sat in bed that evening in awe of this amazing day, and I couldn’t get to sleep. Sunrises on the beach, running empty streets only to be joined by 30,000 on the way back, meeting Kenyans, pink gorillas, naked people streaking the big city, beer for breakfast, wonderful friends (and their wonderful kids), a family I adore…I am truly blessed.

Close your eyes, Scott. Admit you LIVED this day to the fullest and couldn’t pack in one more thing. Close your eyes, and see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Western States Aid Station I'm Most Looking Forward To - No Hands Bridge

Our synchroblog topic for today is "what Western States aid station are you most looking forward to?". That's a tough question, since I suspect they are all pretty awesome. Honestly, as a first-timer I'm looking forward to each and every one. But when it comes down to it, the one I'm most eager to find is No Hands Bridge (mile 96.7).


Why No Hands? I guess it's the symbolism. In my mind this aid station represents a crucial crossover moment in the first time you do this race. It's one last time across the great river, heading into the final climb. Your direction is clear and purposeful for 100 yards, brightened by the landing lights on either side. The finish is close enough to taste, but the race ain't over yet since there's still one big hill. It is the moment where triumph begins to elbow out the demons of defeat.


The "No Hands" Bridge (named by equestrian Ina Robinson, who would drop her reins to ride across the then guardrail-less bridge) is the "official gateway to Auburn". It has survived weather, breaking dams, and floods as a testament that mankind can persevere against nature. I think it's a fitting monument for finding the courage to push it five more miles.

I've seen No Hands Bridge many times, but I suspect it's never more beautiful than at midnight after a 96-mile adventure (note that I'm hoping to be there before midnight!). The aid station volunteers will certainly take care of me, and I'm hoping for a hug to give me that last boost to the finish. Then I'll come back to No Hands to cheer on the others!

Hear what the other synchrobloggers are saying:

Craig Thornley likes the River Crossing
Andy Jones Wilkins is looking forward to Devil's Thumb
Sean Meissner's favorite is the Finish Line
Bryon Powell enjoys Cal 2

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mud-slinging at the 2009 Miwok 100k

"It was a dark and stormy night"...a great way to summarize the starting line at this year's Miwok 100k! 350 brave souls gathered in the Marin Headlands (CA) for the annual running of this hilly, challenging course (10,000' ft) in unusually difficult weather. Whether you made it halfway or all the way, there was plenty of adventure for all.

I carpooled up with Jean Pommier, and we nervously discussed the weather report of high winds, rain, and 20+ mph winds forecast for the day. This was going to be a wild one for sure! It was eerily calm at the beach (and warm for that matter), providing a false sense of "maybe it won't be that bad after all". But most of us were packing our drop bags full of jackets, hats, and gloves just in case.

(Staying warm at the start)

(Todd Braje and me)

(Here comes the storm!)

The starting line was a bit light, with 40 runners deciding not to start at all. The rest were eager to get moving through the fog, including Victor Ballesteros (on his home trails), Graham Cooper (looking good, even though he did the Diablo 50m and a 200-mile bike ride last weekend), Eric Grossman (leading the Montrail Cup), Eric Skaden (went with Graham on both events last week), Todd Braje (just selected to the US 100k team), Topher Gaylord (now moved back from Italy), Kami Semick (3-time winner here, AR50 winner, and looking to crack 9 hours), Caitlin Smith (winner at Way Too Cool, first time at the 100k distance), Joelle Vaught (mountain superstar), Anita Ortiz (mountain running champion), Suzanna Bon (just won the Lake Sonoma 50) and more. We all headed out to Rodeo Beach and waited for the sunlight to brighten up the fog. At 5:45am, we were off!

After a quick hustle across the beach, we slowed to a section of single track and immediately began peeling off clothes. It may have been chilly, but the humidity was accelerating the sweat levels. I ran along with Nicola Gildersleeve, Rick Gaston, Jason Reed, Jon Kroll and a group of others as we did our best to pace ourselves as we climbed up the street. It was interesting to see the various clothing levels - Nicola, Rick and myself had enough to camp out if needed, while Jason and Jon had little more than a singlet and shorts. I suspect the drop bags were making up the difference.

On the first descent I paced with Jon Kroll, whom I am finding to be a perfect pacing partner at many races now. We start about the same speed, but he always manages to have a bit more kick than me at the end (a good motivation for me to keep up!). I let Jon know my crazy training plan for the last few weeks - three races amongst two 100+ mile weeks, so that I could arrive tired at the starting line for Miwok. Here I would run the pace I was hoping to do at States, and if I could finish with enough energy to potentially go another 40 miles, then this would be my goal pace for States. I figured I would shoot for 10 hrs 45 min, which would indicate a 20-hour goal pace for States (according to my self-induced calculus). I'm not sure if this is the right way to think about it, but it seems to work for me! Jon was training the hard core way - lots of miles, going hard at races, and getting a good sense of his body in different scenarios.

(Up, up, into the clouds)

We cruised through the first aid station (mile 6.2), and John Medinger filled us up for the first big climb. The fog and clouds hid the tops, so it just felt like it was going up forever. It wasn't until the smell of eucalyptus told us we had reached the top and we could head on down into Tennessee Valley. We praised the course marking volunteers regularly for their diligence - it was such a relief to see a pink ribbon come out of the fog!

(A deceptively warm ascent)

Tennessee Valley (mile 11) showed us who the true champions of this race were, as Gore-Tex clad volunteers did an amazing job taking care of us in the rain and wind. Their smiles were addictive, and gave us a nice boost as we ran towards the coast. I took a dozen pictures, all of which turned out grey...alas! Luckily Jon and I had run these trails enough we could talk about what the view was "supposed" to be (isn't this Pirates Cove where the seals are?).

(Stinson Beach pokes out of the clouds)

We caught a lively group of three runners as we headed down to Muir Beach (mile 16), and I stopped to pull out my gloves and retie my now-soaked shoes. The Pelican Inn taunted us with smells of pancakes and fresh fire...maybe next time! Jon and I ran together down the road, catching up with Jed Tukman and some friends, and together we plunged into the lush single track. It was nice to get a break from the wind.

(Jed Tukman and friends about to enter the single track)

(Jon Kroll makes his way through the lush single track)

Soon enough we found ourselves at the "big climb", and caught up to Adam Blum and Sean Lang of the RhoMobile Team. We power-walked together, with Jon and Adam taking the lead. Sean was having some stomach issues and wisely paced himself. I was soaked to the bone, but having a good time.

(Adam Blum says "visibility optional!")

(Sean Lang and friend making his way up the climb)

The redwoods did their best to hold back the clouds, and for the first time in the race I could actually see 100 feet in front of me. It was short-lived, however, and Adam and I soon found ourselves jumping puddles in a fog-soaked downpour. There's new weather up here at every turn!

The Pan Toll aid station (mile 22) was an oasis in the storm, and I had a chance to reach into my drop bag for some new gloves, a Vespa, and some green tea (a favorite for cold runs). The volunteers were almost too fast - I want to stay! - and soon had me on my way. Devon Crosby-Helms warned me of what was coming...it's windy, so bring everything you have.

She was not kidding.

Within a mile, I caught up to Jason Reed and Jon Kroll on the exposed ridge and the wind was just insane. It blew us left, then right, then head on so strong we had to tuck in just to move forward. On top of it all, the trail was muddy and uneven so you had to fully engage your core muscles just to stay upright. I lost feeling in my hands and toes, and was just in awe at Jason and Jon who were both wearing only a tank top. Jon was an unstoppable freight train, and pulled us all the way to Bolinas Ridge (mile 28).

(The brave volunteers of the Bolinas Ridge aid station, photo courtesy of Victoria)

Bolinas Ridge was run by a pack of angels who took care of my every need. Rajeev Patel, Sarah Lavender Smith, and a half dozen more let me stuff my face with PB&J, cookies, and refills of water. Each bite brought me more back to life! Usually I'm good with periodic calories, but when it's cold, I like real food. I took off down the trail, catching up with Jimmy Dean Freeman to weave our way through the redwoods and gigantic puddles.

About two miles in, the front runners were heading back. Geoff Roes was in the lead with Eric Grossman right on his tail, and both were a good 3 minutes ahead of the next group of Joe D'Alessio, Scott Jaime, Graham Cooper, and Victor Ballesteros. Anita Ortiz was leading the women, and was smiling and looking good. Kami Semick was hot on her tail, and had apparently fully changed her clothes. Caitlin Smith was about two minutes behind them.

(Geoff Roes blazing on the return path)

(Victor Ballesteros flashes a thumbs up with plastic-wrapped gloves)

We eased our way down the last plunge to the Randall Trail aid station (mile 35), where we could see the evidence of dropping runners all over the place. I guess this is the place to do it, since you better feel good enough to climb back up and get out on that windy ridge again. I ate an entire PB&J, two cookies, and a Coke before I could stop myself. Am I going to gain weight at this race? Finally Chuck Wilson kicked me out of the aid station, and I joined Monica Ochs for the climb back up.

We made good time on the way back, much in thanks to all the happy faces coming towards us. Although I usually chuckle at the Hefty garbage bag look, it was definitely the wise fashion choice for today. I decided to run one hill, walk the next, run the next, etc. The puddles were too big to get around anymore, so I just started running through them. My feet were already numb, so what could it hurt? I ran with Paul Sweeney for a while, whom I hadn't seen since the Rucky Chucky 50k two years ago. He let me know that he got a tick bite at that race, which turned into Lyme's disease, and put him out of racing for a while (luckily he caught it early or it would have been much worse). Now here he was busting ass at Miwok! That's quite a recovery.

(Making our way through the mud)

The rain came down full force, and I was delighted to finally reach the Bolinas aid station again (mile 43). Sarah and Rajeev treated me like a king, and once again I mowed through the aid station like an Easter buffet. This prompted a quick stop at the portapotty, which was the warmest I had been all day. As I took off, Jean Pommier shouted from a nearby car - he had hypothermia and was trying to warm up before continuing. Continuing?!? That guy is tough!

Monica and I got a good rhythm going through the redwoods, and Hozumi Nakai from Vancouver, BC soon joined us. He said "gosh I'm so glad I came from BC to see the beautiful California weather!" in jest, and it was clear he was more than comfortable running in these conditions. Hozumi set the pace through the gale force wind, and we just tried to keep him in sight. The mud was difficult to navigate at any speed, so the shuffle would have to do. I slipped off the trail once, but climbed and laughed my way back up the wet grassy slopes. What a crazy day!

I passed Jason Reed right before Pan Toll (mile 49), and his teeth were chattering something fierce. He assured me he had more gear at the aid station, so I went on ahead. I poured one more green tea into my water bottle, raided the Payday bars, and headed out again with Hozumi and his pacer. We kept a nice pace down the long descent, and the bottom greeted us with a pleasant boost in temperature. I shed a layer, saying hi to Jady Palko who was doing the same, and Jason Reed went by us like a fighter jet. I guess a little warmth was all he needed!

(Fun both up and down!)

We took the back way up to Tennessee Valley, and I caught up with Adam Ray for a bit as we zig-zagged to the top. I ran the zigs and walked the zags, which gave me enough energy to put on some speed when I reached the top. I caught up to Jon Kroll again, which means I must be right on track! We kept a good pace together going into the Hwy 1 aid station (mile 55). Just one more big climb and descent and we were done!

(My partners in crime, Jon Kroll, me, and Mark Winkleman)

Mark Winkleman joined us about a mile into the climb, and we quickly found group equilibrium - Jon was fastest on the descent, Mark climbed the best, I had the flat speed. We rotated accordingly, and before we knew it, we could hear the volunteer on the bullhorn through the fog - "c'mon, you can do it!".

(Mark gets site of the finish)

The clouds broke, and we could see the finish line. Like a suspense thriller that finally reveals the plot, it was all it took for us to smile and turn on the speed. Jon sailed down the stairs, and Mark and I made our way down a bit more cautiously. I came in behind both of them at 10:43:38 for 30th place.

(Charles Zuckerman gives it all he has to squeeze under 13 hours)

I was surprised at how good I felt, and was sure I could go another 30 miles. But my abs were telling me tomorrow morning was going to be painful for sure, thanks to all that balancing. With a beer and BBQ in my hand, I vowed that 20 hours would be my A goal pace for Western States.

(Awesome grub and volunteers at the end)

As I caught up with Joelle Vaught, Jason Reed, and the others, I learned that Eric Grossman had won (8:35) after catching Roes (who dropped), with Victor Ballesteros (8:38), and Scott Jaime (8:46) rounding out the podium. Kami Semick had caught Anita at mile 60 on the last big climb, and went on to win in 9:07 (5th overall) just ahead of Anita (9:10) and Caitlin Smith (9:18). Very impressive times given the weather conditions! The drop rate was at 40 and counting...just finishing was going to be a solid performance today.

(Winner Eric Grossman at the finish, photo courtesy of John Medinger)

The staff told me that Jean Pommier was still out there, so I changed my clothes, got some more food, and kept busy getting some finishing runners from the chute to the warm food tent. Everyone who finished had that look on their face - did you see what we just did?!? This is one to tell the grandchildren for sure. Amazingly, many people were shouting "PR" as they crossed the finish. It didn't take too long before I saw the familiar strides of Jean coming down the final stretch, finishing in 12:12, and quickly making his way to the warm tent for soup and food. He had risen from the dead at least once today and still finished with a respectable time.

My thanks to Tia Bodington and her amazing group of volunteers for putting on a fabulous race. It still amazes me that we can get hundreds of people to run 100k on a rainy day, plus a few hundred more to volunteer, and still have the best of times. The volunteers were the real champions today, hands down. I applaud them!

- SD