Thanks to those who contributed and please keep them coming
Trevor MacKenzie - Victoria, BC
Anyhow, I dabble in running, biking and adventure racing and have had some pretty fun adventures over the years. The Christmas of 2010 my extended family and I with wife Sarah and 3 year old son Ewan spent the break in Hawaai on the island of Maui. My father-in-law and I drove to the east side of the island to Hana, a remote town known for it's windy pavement, bamboo terrain, black sand beaches, and lagoons. When we arrived at our destination, a short 7k hike from the black sand shores up to the Waimoku Falls, my father-in-law and I were awestruck. He is an avid photographer and as we trekked the short path down to the water we both realized we would have to part ways - he to snap pics and I to get my cruise on. I spent the next 2 hours taking in the trail, chatting with fellow adventurous souls, and soaking in the pools under the falls. When we finally found each other we slowly descended back to our rental car sharing similar stories of discovering beauty along the trail - each form our own perspective and passion. Needless to say, the photos he took are awesome reminders of one fantastic run. They hang framed in our home calling for a return visit or for this story to be shared.
Thanks Adam and keep doing what you do. Best of luck in your 2012 season!
Photo credit: my talented father-in-law Mr. Jeremy Tate.
Daniel Przybeck -- Wengen, Switzerland Jan 2012
Too much snow for running which turned into a snowshoe run with the dog.
Here’s my entry for your monthly contest. It is my story of running 2011 Western States. It’s a bit long but hopefully it passes on the feeling of running a big race. Hope you enjoy.
Next month my story of a solo running of the Grand Canyon r2r2r.
Being at the start line of the Western States trail race is an amazing experience. It is dark and cool, the sky just starting to light up above the eastern mountains. Everyone is excited and wants to get going. The first four miles is up a maintenance road beside the Squaw Valley ski resort so there’s a steady incline to start the race. The horn goes off and the runners begin to run, jog, and walk, depending on where they are in the crowd. It’s going to be a long day so no need to get in a rush. Never get to see the lead guys as by the time it gets light they are way ahead.
Near the top of the mountain the trail narrows and everyone falls into a single file line. By this time the nerves have calmed down so each person just follows the person in front without complaint. The view of the mountains, Lake Tahoe, and the sun coming up are beautiful. As we come over the top, the trail is clear and we finally start running. It feels good but it doesn’t last long. Within about half a mile we get into the snow. This is messy with lots of traversing on old snow that has been melting and freezing. Glad I’ve got some good tread on my shoes. Those people wearing road shoes or shoes without aggressive tread are having a tough time. I pick up the pace through this section as most of the traversing is not any easier going slow so might as well rip across and hope for the best. I pass large groups of people through here. At one point I’m patiently following a runner, when behind me in a thick Norwegian accent I hear “you’re going too slow boys; you need to get some better shoes.” This makes me chuckle to myself. As the Norwegian passes I follow and continue to follow him through the snow.
After about seven miles of snow we start to hit sections of dry trail. These become longer and the snow sections smaller and smaller until the snow is gone for good. We’re on a nice easy slope down now and can move well. Just before Talbot aid station we get our first real creek crossing. The cold water feels good on the feet after all the side slope running.
I pass quickly through Talbot and head for Poppy. Nice easy road to just relax and cruise. Talk to a few runners and, find out later, one of those runners got his 1000miles/10days buckle. An impressive accomplishment. There are lots of first-time Western States runners and even runners doing their first 100 mile race.
After Poppy there’s some great single track on soft rolling trails along the reservoir. Surprised by the number of guys running up the hills. I keep gaining on them with my run down, walk up approach. After a couple of miles we come out of the trees and start heading up on exposed, dusty new trail. Not so pretty but getting close to Duncan Canyon. Make a mistake here and only fill up one water bottle. After I’m out of the station I figure out its 7.5 miles to the next station. Should have a little more water but it’ll be fine.
In the canyon there is some nice downhill running, a couple miles of pavement, half down and then half up. Again, can’t believe the people running up hill. A guy wearing a plaid shirt guy passes me for a second time. Weird, I think, as I’m sure he had passed me earlier. We keep going up, moving off the highway onto 4x4 roads with some great views of the valley. It’s a nice day and not too hot yet so still enjoying myself. I stop when I find a little snow and put it in my hat to stay as cool as possible. I know the heat is my weakness. The aid stations now have big buckets of water with sponges that helps but the cooling never lasts long.
When I arrive at Mosquito I’ve built up 40 minutes of a gap over the 24 hr finish time so I’m feeling good but also realising that it is not going to be easy to maintain that gap. After Mosquito we do a boring four mile loop that has been added to make up the distance we lost due to the snow route change. I make up some time on this section continuing my strategy of walking up the hills and cruising the downs. As I enter Millers Defeat I see a fellow Canadian, Wayne Gaudet. He’s heading out on the loop so is about four miles behind me. We say hi but are both focused on getting going so I don’t find out too much about how he’s doing.
I don’t realize this as I head out, but the next 12.5miles is basically downhill, losing about 1500-2000 feet in elevation. Not tough but hard to slow down as it just keeps falling. I’m hoping for a nice long uphill, unfortunately that’s about 15miles away. After Dusty Corners we get directed off the 4x4 trail onto a single track trail. The volunteer warns us that this is some of the most beautiful section of trail we will run. I don’t pay much attention but a little while later have to stop and walk to take in the views. We are high up on the side of a mountain looking down into a valley with raging rivers. It makes you forget about the race for a few minutes. The trail is soft and shady. Could run on this all day.
Next is Last Chance. I get a little excited as it’s only 12.5 miles until I get to see Karon, my crew. It’s always nice to see your support. I figure I can make up some time through this section. I mean how can 4.5 miles take the estimated 80 minutes? Out of the aid station the trail heads down and continues down. Again, I’m waiting for uphill but there seems to be only a lot of valley to descend into. Finally I get to the bottom, and there’s a small creek crossing. A couple of runners who have passed me are soaking themselves in the creek, including plaid shirt guy. Where did he come from again? Then, finally, the trail goes up. Steeply up! I’ve set my garmin to beep at each kilometre. It finally beeps after almost 25 minutes! Ok, now the 80minute estimate is making sense.
As you get close to the next aid station you can hear the cheering. It lifts my spirits and helps me pick up the pace. A runner named Jerry has been coming up this section with me. It’s nice to talk to someone on these uphills to pass the time. As we come into the station, Devil’s Thumb, we are greeted by a man dressed as the Devil. He shakes our hands and welcomes us. Another great station, but got to keep moving.
Off I go, downhill again, gradual at first but then back onto single track switchbacks. At one point I hit a rock and go down, doing my best to land softly but twisting my index finger. Of course I jump up quickly and then stop to make sure I’m ok. Finger is sore but basically injury free. Got to be careful, don’t want a fall to end my race. My legs are getting tired of these downhills, they just don’t stop. This section is about five miles and it loses almost a half mile of elevation. It’s getting warm too but I’m still having fun and feeling good. I’m continuing to build the gap between my estimated finish time and my 24 hour goal. This also helps to keep me positive. I know at some point things could go badly and having that extra time will give me a cushion I might need later. I pass a runner close to the bottom who is walking slowly and doesn’t look like he’s having fun. As I arrive at the aid station, first aid is heading out to check on him. The stations are so friendly but at this point I’m focused and friendly seems a bit annoying. I only ask to have one bottle filled up but the aid person thinks I should fill both. I want to tell him to piss off, but say no that’s ok and continue on. Of course trying to head the wrong way out of the station doesn’t make me look like I’m in good shape.
Start the next sectin heading up hill. I’m over 50miles and can now start to count down. This is a big mental game for me. I know it’s still along way but have to keep the happy thoughts. Only a couple of miles to Michigan bluff where I get to see Karon. It will only be for a minute but nice to see her after almost 12 hours. The climb is long and my right hip and IT band hurts on these long up hills. The pain goes away on the flats and downhills so I’m not too worried about it. Everything else feels pretty good, feet are in great shape. I won’t change shoes as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Finally arrive in Michigan Bluff to cheers and Karon’s smiling face. She directs me to the chair. I don’t dare sit down. Change my bottles, buff, get a kiss and head out. Karon lets me know Gary, my pacer, will join me at Bath Road, 2 miles earlier than expected. This is nice to know and I look forward to having Gary along. It’s really warm out now and even though I soak my hat and buff in cold water it doesn’t take long for them to warm up and dry out. This section is not very interesting, just a road that has been pushed through by a dozer. I talk to a couple of runners and find out that one runner, Jeff, is doing the race without a pacer. Tough to do, but he’s done a few other 100 mile races so he knows what will come.
Still running at this point which is good although the slopes I’m walking up are getting less steep. Soon I’m coming into Bath Road. Some ass put a sign that the station is only a ¼ mile but it is closer to a mile. Oh well just keep going, still staying ahead of 24hrs. Pass through Bath Road and start heading up the road to Foresthill. People along the way cheer me on and I see Gary heading towards me. We start our long day together. It’s good to talk to him and hear about the racers ahead of me. We come into Foresthill, he directs me through the station to where Karon is with my gear. We make a quick change and take a picture. After, when i see the picture, I’m surprised at how reasonable I look. Karon says I looked a bit pale but that’s expected towards the end of the heat of the day. Good thing we got relatively mild weather. Another 5 degrees warmer and I might have had some real problems.
We head out of Foresthill, me trying to eat a sandwich that is not going down easy; chewing is always tough at this point, have to add lots of water. I’ve been on liquids for over 12hrs now. I’ve stuck very close to my fuel plan so should be good for calories and water. Weight has been staying the same at the medical stations. Running on the pavement is very hot but soon we get back on the trail and into the shade. Soon I’m wishing I’d got rid of my hat and sunglasses as we won’t see Karon for another 4hrs. We only took a small head lamp so we will race against the dark to get to Karon before we need some serious light.
Soon plaid shirt guy passes us again. This must be the fifth time. I comment on his pacing and he explains he’s keeps stopping to get sick. Wow what a long day for that. Every time he passes me he’s got a great pace and seems relaxed but then he’s off to get sick for a while. Glad it’s not me.
We continue on. As it cools off a little our pace quickens and I start to have more energy. Gary is enjoying himself, encouraging me on, taking pictures, talking to runners. The downhills are getting really tough but that’s expected. Soon we pass through Dardanelles and Peachstone. Some nice views and trails but I’m mostly focused internally and on the trail in front of me now. We are doing well and start talking about hitting the river before dark. It will be close but we’ll try. Of course it seems like every time we think we’re making good time we come around a corner to be faced with a long steep up hill. The long uphills shorter now but they still slow things down. I need about a minute at the top of each hill to walk and regain my breath before we start running again. I curse at Gary under my breath but he’s pushing me on. Without him I’d be walking alot more. We’re now through Ford’s Bar and heading to Rucky Chucky, the famed river crossing. It’s reasonably flat and it is pretty along the river so we keep hustling to beat the darkness. We can see the river crossing as we are running down the road. We’ll be there before dark, just before 9pm, 16hrs since the start.
The river crossing is smooth with so many volunteers to help. I was worried about sitting in the boat and getting up but they help us all the way. Gary is busy snapping pictures of everything. I guess this is sort of our Disneyland so it’s nice that he’s capturing it all. Of course from here on in it will be dark and there will be no more pictures until the finish line. After the river it is a two mile uphill climb to the station and Karon. Looking forward to seeing her again for a minute. It’s dark now and a bat flys at me, veering off at the last second. Wakes me up a bit.
At the station we find Karon has had a long walk downhill to get to the station with our gear and will have to hike back up the road in the dark to get out. She hates that stuff but won’t complain until later. I change shirts, get rid of my hat, get a better head lamp and we’re off. Gary is leading to make sure we stay on route and me following just focused on my footing and the trail in front of me. Things slow down as there’s nothing to look at any more. My legs are very stiff coming out of the station and it takes a while to get back to running. The trail is mostly nice single track, very runnable. Somewhere along the next 20 miles I end up kicking 2 rocks, one with each foot. “Didn’t need those toenails” i say to Gary. The next ten miles of trail is rolling and I run as much as I can but my strides are getting shorter and my pace slower. Downhills are hard on the legs and uphills are hard on the lungs. We’re both pretty quiet but still in good spirits. We can hear the aid stations as we come up to them. They’re like little bush parties. Music blasting, lots of lights. Gary takes a little time in each station to talk. I just keep moving.
At Auburn Lake, we get a warning about my weight; I’m down almost 2%. The medical guy doesn’t like Gary’s nonchalant attitude but I’m confident that I’m ok. Gary has been reminding me to eat every 10mins. We both have beat ourselves up before and know how we’ll feel. After the station I focus on eating more at each 10mins. Brown’s Bar is another big party and we’re warned the trail is technical after the station. This slows us down as I’m not as quick as usual at this point. I get Gary to add an electrolyte pill to my water as I’m starting to feel some cramping and don’t want this to be an issue. The downhills are too technical to run and the uphills running is not an option at this point. It seems to take forever to Hwy 49 as neither of us realised how long the uphill was to this station. I finally pee which at this point it a good sign. It’s pretty brown but I’m still feeling reasonable so nothing to worry about. Still in good spirits, we continue to make time on the 24hr and are now possibly able to break 22hrs. Finally we roll into the next aid station. Only 7.5 miles left.
We are focused on 22 hrs as we leave the station but a mean uphill doesn’t make us feel good. Once at the top we start to run on a flat rock-free trail. By this point my shuffle is likely about 12min miles but on the flats that’s great, hopefully we can just keep moving. Of course flats are uncommon on the course and we start heading down. Any kind of step down is difficult as it feels like my quads might just quit on one of these. We can see bridges and cars driving on a road so we must be close to No Hands Bridge. Finally we hear the music and we hurry to see the lights and a big screen showing past western states footage. Of course that’s what Gary tells me. I’ve got my head down and don’t even stop at the station, just head across the bridge. Gary catches up quickly up quickly after having a view of the aid station. He gets all the fun. As he catches me, he says for the millionth time “it’s flat, you’ve got to run.” I try and listen and slowly get up to my running speed which is really a fast shuffle but we’re racing the 22hr clock and every second counts. We run the flat trail and can see the next aid station up on the hill. Just when we think we know where the trail is going it goes off the main trail to the right. I think I see head lamps ahead. It’s a little frustrating as there seems to be a number of runners catching up to us now. We reach Robie and are told it’s a little bit uphill but only 1.3miles to the finish. Gary is telling me it’s flat and we should run but he’s being very liberal in his definition of flat so I keep walking as fast as I can. He is now trying to drag me with his will to get me there before 22 hrs. I’m trying but know it’s likely not going to happen and don’t really care if it’s five minutes later.
I laugh and yell at Gary as I see who is passing me again. Plaid shirt guy has returned and is going to beat me to the finish.
The group of runners is gone and it’s just Gary and me again. I’m hobbling as fast as I can. Finally we’re coming around the last corner to the track. We enter the track, running, sort of. Karon is there, taking a video of me. It is so exciting to finally be on the track. I’ve watched so many videos of people finishing this race and now it’s my turn. It is breathtaking as they announce my name and people cheer me to the line. Gary is beside me and I think he’s as excited as I am. We didn’t get in under 22hrs (3am) but I’m well under 24 hours so I’ll get my silver buckle.
We cross the line and everyone is there to help us. I get my medal, they weigh me, they sit me in a chair, give me water, take my blood pressure and my timing chip. Then I’m off to give a blood sample for their research. Then we lay on the grass. I feel sick, don’t want to drink any water. Gary sits down beside us, drinks a bottle of water, then turns away and pukes. Guess he was feeling a bit rough also. As usual I want to get away from the finish line before someone tries to put me in the medical tent.
At the hotel I shower and get into bed. Feeling like crap, I drink some water but then go puke everything up. Toss and turn until about 9am. At the awards I’m one of about 20 runners asked to talk to the doctor due to our elevated CPK numbers. I know this isn’t good but think it shows I left it all out there and gave my best effort. I’ll feel better in a few days and it was worth it for the buckle.