Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Western States 100

What an amazing experience....running Western States 100 miler.  The journey began with first my ticket...Second place finish at Waldo 100k.  Waldo was in August of 2011 and was the 1st race of the Montrail Ultra Cup series, placing 1st or 2nd in any one of the race series earns you a spot in WS 100 along with points earned for each race ran of the series.  The grand finale of the series was WS 100.
Having raced 2, 100 mile races (San Diego 100, June 2011 and HURT 100, Jan 2012) I knew I was capable of completing the distance.  My goal for WS was not only to complete the race but to race it well and with a competitive time.
My crew, Carrie and Rachel under the countdown clock!
There were rumors of perhaps record temps for the heat in the canyons and so I focused my attention on the Memorial Day training camp. This was both an opportunity to see the parts of the course I had only ever heard about (Devil's Thumb, The Canyons...) I was hoping to experience the heat of the canyons at some point during the 3 days of running on the course they call "States".  I ran 82 miles over the 3 days and while the 1st day was cool the 2 following days gave me some of the warmth I was looking for.  More importantly I was exposed to the same trails that I would be seeing on race day.  I continued my heat training in Bend , not on my runs but rather in a sauna as we had yet to see any heat.
As race day drew closer the anticipated high temps began to diminish.  WS 100 starts in Squaw Valley and finishes in Auburn at Placer High School and the temps were dropping on both ends.
We arrived in Squaw on Thursday, we being my DP (domestic partner) Ken Sinclair, my kiddo Rachel and Ken's sister Carrie.  Ken was to be my pacer for the last 38 miles and Rachel and Carrie were my crew.

My Kiddo!
Almost go time!
Race morning presented with cool/cold temps with rain in the forecast.  My crew and I were up at 3AM super excited for the 5AM start.  It is difficult to put into words the energy that surrounds WS.  This energy had been flowing through me from the moment we arrived in Squaw and I was eager to get the race started.
My race plan was to start out conservatively but steady, don't pound the down hills to early or toast the legs on the climbs.  I had a pace chart put together by AJW along with great info on how to put together a smart race specific to the WS course.
Nope no views here!
The first climb was incredible, 4 miles with 2500 vert ft.  I hit it slow and steady, the higher we climbed the uglier the weather.  Reward for reaching the top was gusting winds, pouring rain/ sleet and no views...... Sadly this weather stayed with us for the next 35-40 miles.  My fowl weather apparel consisted of a visor (put my sunglasses away in my hydration pack) my Patagonia Houdini, super happy it had a hood, and my fleece mittens.  A giant thank you to the amazing aid support who would happily wring out my mittens each time I came through and who had hot chicken noodle soup at the ready.  A few miles outside of Duncan canyon aid station I came across what all runners hate to see, a fallen runner.  She was with Meghan and a group of guys and was down with an asthmatic attack.  Fortunately the next 2 female runners were running with inhalers and offered them up to help.  The relief of the bronchial spasms was almost immediate and after a few minutes of hanging out, Meghan encouraged me to continue.
Some people sing in the rain, I smile!
My first opportunity to see my crew was at Robinson Flats, mile 30.  I was cold and felt like a drowned rat and pretty sure my smile of gratitude to see my crew looked more like a grimace as I could not feel my face.  Rachel took on wringing out the mittens while Carrie tried to towel dry by frozen body...Ken was busy talking strategy and shoving food in my mouth....my spirit was lifted as I left my crew and while no warmer I felt pretty good.  I was a little bummed when Ken said they would not see me again until Forest hill, mile 72.  Michigan Bluff, mile 62 was a spot to see your crew but there was concern that they would miss me at Forest hill if they went to Michigan bluff first.
I think I finally started warming up around mile 45, thankful when I actually stopped to take off my Houdini and plug in some tunes!  Shortly after which I rounded a corner and rolled my ankle on a rock and fell to the ground.  I had not realized how fragile my emotional / physical state was until this happened.  ALL ultra runners roll their ankles, I do it often enough that I have to give credit where credit is due....sturdy bones : )  The difference this time is that I broke into tears, I had been cold for what felt like forever and then as soon as I was feeling better, I roll my ankle hard enough for it to pop and it really freaking hurt!  I forgot to mention that I was racing in my Adidas Adios, a light weight racing flat, hence no stability on rocks.  I spent the next while gingerly placing my footing so as to keep my rolled foot flat (or somewhat).  Not to much later I was back to running with out much thought of my ankle.  I spent some good miles with a fellow Patagonia runner Tyler Stewart and Montrail runner Eric Skaden over Devil's Thumb to El Dorado Bridge and onto Michigan Bluff where I was surprised to find Carrie!! I had chatted with a runner who had crew at Michigan Bluff and when asked I found that I was truly sad to say that my crew was going to be further down at Forest Hill.  Thank you Carrie for lifting me back up! Next crew support was to be my Kiddo at Bath Road.  This is the first opportunity your crew can actually run a short distance with their runner.  Rachel was concerned that she might not be able to keep up but I assured her that after 60 miles, she would be fine.  As we trotted up the hill on Bath Road I paused to look at my Garmin and did ask, "is 12:20 pace to fast" and proceeded to do a bit of power hiking : )  Rachel ran with me to Forest Hill where I was weighed ( forgot to mention, for this race you are weighed the day prior and then throughout the event to track your hydration status).  This was about my 5th weigh in and all was well.  After weigh in I ran to my crew who had all that I had asked for ready....they slathered my legs in Arnica Gel, and my face/ shoulders in sunscreen, I drank some chocolate milk and off Ken and I went.  I was so very thankful that I was going to have my favorite running partner with me for the last 38 miles.
Forest Hill, picking up my pacer!
We had some pretty good running from there to the Rucky Chucky river,  passing a handful of guys....we had yet to see any female runners.  Tyler was the last female I passed on Devil's Thumb leaving me sitting in 13th place.  Rucky Chucky was not so nice, while I had gotten warm at points during the race, I had yet to get hot and the Rucky Chucky was a river crossing that would put the water level to my mid chest at points at 8pm no less.
Rucky Chucky river crossing
Need I say brrrrrr, I once again found myself freezing and while the next 1.5 miles was a climb to the Green Gate aid station where my crew would be, I was still freezing when I got to the top.  Rach and Carrie were immediately on task, treating me like a queen.  They changed my socks and shoes, got me into a sweatshirt and my old Houdini and mittens....and for the second time that day, stomach feeling like crap, and freezing I felt the tears welling back up.  Rach started briskly rubbing my white hands and with her tears rising to the surface I "got a grip" stood up and said, "okay, let's go" to Ken.  We had our headlamps and off we went.  Seriously, I had not just signed up for this but had been looking forward to this day for a long time.
As we left the ALT aid station someone said I was in 10th place, Ken and I knew I was in 13th and so as we came into the next aid station, I went through while Ken hung back to verify my place.  He was told 10th and the woman tracking this "was NEVER wrong".  Ken caught me sharing this news and in the distance to the next aid station I passed 2 females, placing me in 8th.  I was super happy with this and while my pace was that of someone having run 85 miles, I was confident that I would not be passed.
I ran through the next few aid stations oblivious to the fact that I was actually in 11th place (having never jumped from 13th to 10th, the never wrong woman had been wrong) Ken on the other hand was aware, we came into Brown's Bar aid station supported by the Rogue Valley Runners and they said I was indeed in 11th and Meghan had come through about 30 minutes earlier. This was again confirmed to Ken by our crew 8 miles from the finish.  Ken kept this information to himself and I continued to run.
My crew joined us about a mile from the finish, running the last mile in with me, what an amazing feeling! John Medinger was announcing as I came in, acknowledging my Waldo finish that got me to the starting line and my win at Ice Age and finished with "and is the unfortunate #11" (top 10 are given automatic entry into the race for next year), I felt a small surge of emotions, but ultimately my 11th finish could not take away from my feelings of accomplishment....
What a feeling!

Icing to my 11th place finish was taking home the win for the Montrail Ultra Cup Series! Not to bad for my first attempt at Western States 100!
Timothy Olson and Denise Bourassa Crowned 2011-12 Montrail Ultra Cup Champions

Huge Thank you to Western States for their amazing coordination of an incredible event, the support on the course was phenomenal, volunteers were super energized through the pouring rain and the darkness of night!  Super huge thanks to my family/crew and my pacer for being there through my highs, and my lows, you guys were amazing for the entire 20+ hours! And yes, you will be invited back next year (when I race back in!!).  Thanks to Spider Tech for keeping me pain free with the postural and lower back support tape, "the s*it just works". A big thanks to my sponsor Patagonia as always the gear worked great in the rain, sun and the river! I am looking forward to racing my way into Western States 2013....Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Ok... Read this to my wife and she's balling her eyes out!! I think it's a happy cry because she's so proud of you! Plus she's 8 months pregnant! Lol. We love you so much and we are so proud of your accomplishments! Travis and Rosie