Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2013 Western States 100 aka, "The Dance"

2013 Western States 100 miler and Montrail Ultra Cup 2012-13 goals accomplished!!!

June 29th Western States 100, what a ride...okay maybe more of a run than a ride.

My crew and I mimicked last years travel plans; leave Bend on Wednesday (after work) stay overnight in Reno (loose a few $$) to arrive in Squaw mid morning on Thursday. Highlight of our stay over in Reno...my fortune cookie from dinner, "A long term goal is about to be achieved", can't argue with a fortune cookie right?!
This years crew / pacer team consisted of last year crew, grown by my brother in law and fellow Bendite Stephanie Howe.  Yes, that made for 3 crew and 2 pacers and when not pacing, up to 5 crew! Ken did call me a bit of a Diva.  In my defense, my kiddo, Rachel, shared that last year she waited for the "Bitchy Denise" to make an appearance during the race...and she never did :)
With almost 2 full days in Squaw to prep for the Saturday 5AM race start, I had plenty of time to plan with my crew my needs, wants, and anything else I could come up with to ask of them on race day.  While I felt fairly dialed in for food, hydration, and race gear, I was less confident as it related to the main unknown, the heat.  I have raced in warm conditions but I had yet to experience anything in the triple digits and triple digits was the projection for race day.  As crew / pacer for San Diego 100 miler, where there was a 44% finish rate due to extreme temps...I had a healthy respect for what the heat could do to us runners.  Like last year my heat training consisted of a couple of weeks training in the Sauna...that was it.  And so with that I set about my game plan...start out at a moderate pace and try to take advantage of the early morning temps but...not so strong to place myself at a deficit further into the race.  At each aid station my goal was to evaluate my needs and to address them prior to leaving the aid station, "get square" was the advice from fellow Patagonia runner, Jeff Browning, winner of the San Diego 100.  For my hydration I would use my Ultraspire Spry and once it heated up I would also carry a 16oz Ultraspire handheld for dousing my head as needed.  I planned to wear a bandanna around my neck filled with ice to help keep my core temp down and as was recommended I exchanged my red race jersey and black shorts for a white tank and pale green shorts.
Almost go time!
Mixed in with race day planning was the next best part of running any ultra....hanging with all the great runners / friends and experiencing the dynamic energy that surrounds WS's.  If you can picture your last family reunion with all of your favorite family members, you will have a good idea on what getting together for this event is like.  An amazing bunch of people all congregated around an equally amazing event and RD'd by the best of them out there, Craig Thornley aka Lord Balls!

5:00 AM race start, skies were clear and the temps were pleasant.  As planned, I started out at a moderate pace, climbing up the Escarpment and enjoying the company of many familiar faces.  Once up and over,  I spent the next hour + in the company of Ashley Nordell, from Sisters. 
Photo courtesy of Facchino Photography; Beautiful clear skies!
While I was running comfortably I started experiencing what would be one of my lowest points for the race (how lucky to be getting it out of the way so early :)).  While having a room central to Squaw is great for the social aspect of the race, it is not good for sleep.  If you close up the windows it feels like your in an oven and if you open them up, the party outside sounds like it is in your room.  2 nights in Squaw meant 2 nights of no sleep.  At this point in the race, I began to feel complete body fatigue...and I actually felt ill; flushed face, burning eyes, light headed, like I could lie down under a tree, curl into a ball and go to sleep.  I had no idea how I was going to run 90 more miles!!!  And so, I found myself focusing on Ashley in front of me and placing one foot in front of the other, praying what I was experiencing would go away.  Lucky for me, it did and within the next few miles I began to enjoy the trails again!  I ran through to Robinson Flats mi 29.7, feeling re-energized knowing I would see my crew.  This year there would be no wringing out of my mittens or towel drying of my body.  My brother in law, Roy, did get to hear a lil bit of the bitchy Denise, when he sponged me down with water...the water had grown warm as they waited for me and for thanks I grouched, "that's warm!".  He stopped and redeemed himself by handing me my food of choice, cottage cheese (chilled) mixed with a Dole fruit cup :) and Odawalla chocolate protein shake mixed with coconut water.  This proved effective through out the race when I could see my crew.  With some food in my belly, I collected my handheld filled with ice water and what would prove to be my new best friend...my iced bandanna and off I went.

Photo courtesy of Long Run Picture Company
My second low point came around mi 34, Millers Defeat....this low can only be understood by other females.  Yes, I started my cycle that AM and this time I found myself distracted from the race by cramps.  I came into Dusty Corners mi 38, asking for what I knew they would not have, Advil (which can lead to kidney problems in ultra events) along with some female product....they did not have either but kindly said they would call ahead to the next aid station.  I arrived at Last Chance mi 43, to be greeted by some wonderful volunteers who had the second part of my request.  I was starting to feel better as Rachel had given me some Advil back at Robinson Flat and it had finally kicked in.
I ran from Last Chance to Devil's thumb exchanged greetings and conversed a bit before moving on past Kerrie Burxvoort, who was struggling with foot issues.  I had been running in the 10th position for females up until then.  At the base of Devil's thumb, I took advantage of the creek and spent a couple of minutes climbing down to it for a full body soak...it was well worth it!  On my way from Devil's thumb to El Dorado Creek, I passed Joelle Vaught, the heat was no friend to her and her stomach.
I saw my crew again at Michigan Bluff mi 55.7, and enjoyed getting iced down by Roy...no warm water this time :)  Ken told me the next female was maybe 15 minutes up on me (Emily Harrison) and she was not looking strong.  I took off, putting on a bit of pretense of feeling better than I actually was.  While I was managing to the heat, like everyone else, it was taking a bit out of me.  I found myself taking the advice from the expert panel of the day prior, run in the shade and do a bit more walking in the sun.  Next aid would Bath Road where I would get to enjoy Rachel's company for the 1.5 miles to Foresthill.  She was a delight, I trotted the majority of the uphill road and Rachel filled me in on how the race was unfolding ahead of me.  I was super excited to hear that Pam Smith was holding the F1 spot and running strong.
Foresthill I picked up the 1st of my 2 pacers, Stephanie Howe, she would take me to the river crossing and Ken would be taking me from the river on home to Placer High School.
I came into the aid station and welcomed the attention from my crew.  Once again my core was cooled and with me feeling/ looking like a drowned rat and Steph looking as fresh as a summer breeze, we were off.  Stephanie was great company, giving me encouragement when I needed it and providing the distraction you need when you have run 65 miles.  Our trip to the river was happily uneventful minus some calf cramping.  I left Foresthill having ran out of salt tabs and forgot to refill my stash...I refilled 5 mi later.  When we got to the river I was happy to climb into it for the crossing and even happier that we got there with a bit of daylight left as my headlamps were at the top of Greengate 2 miles away.  I was also very thankful for the volunteers in the river holding the cable steady as the high point of the river reached my shoulders!!

Photo courtesy of Facchino Photography
Ken greeted us on the other side and the 3 of us made the almost 2 mile uphill trek to Greengate.  As compared to last year I trotted the majority of the hill, I was feeling good and happy to be sharing the last 22 miles with my husband! The hand off was complete, thank you Stephanie, you were a gem!!
We collected our headlamps, I was to wear the Roch Horton, Black Diamond special :) 1 lamp at my waist (The Storm) with a second one on my head (Polar Icon).  300 luminescence of retina searing light!! Perfect combo for the terrain!
Hard to say when but somewhere along our trek to Placer High, my quads left me...I had heard of quad death but had never actually experienced it.  I have on different occasions had painful quads brought on by downhill pounding but this was different.  Way different.  While I was capable of trotting the uphills, the flats and gradual downhills, anything that had a significant drop to it had me shuffling a painfully slow and somewhat frightened shuffle.  I would not be gaining on any of the female runners in front of me at this pace...quite possibly I would be gained upon.  I had been running in 8th place for the last half of the race, I could only hope that I would hold it until the finish.  Ken gave me encouragement as best he could but aside from picking me up and carrying me, I had only one downhill pace, very slow.  Brown's Bar aid brought the Rogue Valley Runners aid station, this year, unlike last, I knew my placement and with the cheers from the enthusiastic volunteers, Ken and I shuffled away.  Highway 49 aid station at mi 93 was the last time I would get to enjoy my crew.  I sipped on some soup and welcomed both with pleasure and pain Roy rubbing down my quads, it was with reluctance that I left.

Photo courtesy of Facchino Photography
The last aid station, No Hands Bridge and 3 miles to the finish....Ken tried to get me to rally as I was passed by Auburn resident Matt Keyes (he got me by 70 sec) and with one last push we were on the track.
Top 10 finish....F8, and an invite back for 2014!

And the win for the Montrail Ultra Cup 2012-2013!!

My thanks go out to my sponsors and to those who have helped me to achieve my goals Patagonia,  Ultraspire, Hypoxico SystemsBlack Diamond, Ian Torrence my coach, and my husband.  Ken, thank you for supporting me through all of my crazy running adventures as well as spending long (seemingly endless) hours with me out on the trails!!

As always, none of us runners would be writing of our accomplishments without the great support of all the volunteers....Thank you!

As I am finishing my blog I sit in my "bubble" at 11,500ft in preparation for my next running adventure...Leadville 100, August 17th!


  1. Awesomely done on all counts! And what you started back in January ended up being a sweet Montrail cup to boot!

  2. Well done Denise... also, I didn't know that Ken and you are married now!!! Congrats! You are such a tuff competitor. Very proud of you.