|(Ready to roll!)|
The first test of the Western States 100 (WS100) is having the patience to get in. I've lost the lottery for entry a record eight times, but in the process have been able to run it once in 2009 (back in the "two time losers get in" days) as well as joyfully participate as a pacer, crew, and volunteer on many occasions. Plus the requirement to run a qualifier race each year has been a great excuse to travel to races such as UTMB, Wasatch, Pine to Palm, Rocky Raccoon, and more. Patience can be rewarding! For 2016, I was lucky enough to get a sponsor ticket from Scott Roberds and the great team at Microlumens, the same folks who ensured every runner got an awesome customized WS100 BigTruck hat in their swag bag. The previous year Scott gave the ticket to Gundhild Swanson, resulting in her epic finish just seconds under the 30-hour cut off to become the oldest female finisher of all time. Big shoes to fill!
|(Quick selfie with the guy who started it all, Gordy Ainsleigh)|
|(T-3 minutes! Let's do this)|
|(With Chris DeNucci, who went on to an amazing 17:07 finish for M9, photo courtesy of Chris Jones)|
|(And we're off!)|
|(Erika Lindland, Eric Byrnes, and Karl Hoagland head up the hill)|
|(The sun catches up as we near the top)|
|(Amy Sproston greets the sunrise, photo courtesy of Paul Nelson)|
|(Eric Schranz sounds the horn!)|
|(Cheering team crazier than the running team)|
|(Here comes the heat!)|
|(Jeff Clowers has been a friend for almost 40 years...so great to see him at Duncan!)|
|(Pic from '09, but looks the same!)|
As we made our way down Little Bald Mountain, the runner behind me said "you're Scott Dunlap, aren't you?". He then pointed out that we ran this exact section together in '09, when both of us were listening to Michael Jackson right after the performers death. He said, "there was another guy with us too..." and I told him, yep, that was Whit Rambach, who is my pacer today. Deja vu!
|(Somewhere, out there, is an aid station!)|
|(Getting some love from the Last Chance car wash, photo courtesy of Allen Lucas)|
|(Still having fun! Photo by Chris Jones)|
|(Love this shot of Sarah Lavender Smith surprised to find her family at the aid station)|
|(Love this photo of a supportive, but tired family, from Chris Bragg)|
|(Brian Morrison gets some TLC from his wife, and later finds that finish)|
|(Kaci Lickteig crosses the river, photo courtesy of Luis Escobar)|
|(Jim Walmsley was an hour ahead of course record at the river)|
I felt amazing in the next section, running so fast I even dropped my pacer for a stretch. But as soon as I stopped at ALT (mile 85), I didn't feel so good. Whoops...perhaps went a little too hard? I surprised Whit by projectile vomiting just past the aid station, and we just shrugged our shoulders and kept moving. It would have to be nothing but butterscotch hard candy for the next couple of hours. When Matt Keyes passed us, I let him know I technicolor yawned ALT in his honor and he gave me a high five. There's something very, very wrong with us. ;-)
|(Jeff Browning is hauling ass, photo courtesy of Luis Escobar)|
In the last climb to Robie Point (mile 98.9), I allowed myself to believe this was actually happening. The lump in my throat was likely visible at this point, and as we exchanged congrats with a few runners now easily cruising under 24 hours. I wanted to hug everyone. The track at Placer High came into view, and the tears welled up. My crew was there, my pacer was stoked, and we crossed the finish in 23:43 for 95th place. We did it, you guys! We did it!!! Craig Thornley gave me a big hug, and I took a seat to donate some blood for the medical tests before relishing the last few minutes of dark.
|(The finish! We did it!)|
|(Wally Hesseltine gets it done)|
But most of all, I am inspired by my crew and pacer who helped me execute that perfect plan for silver. Their love, friendship, and support means the world to me. Sometimes it takes 100 miles in one day to remember that. I've already arranged to have their names engraved in my silver buckle next to mine, as they deserve to be. They have my eternal gratitude.
|(This silver buckle seems to go with all my outfits this week!)|