Friday, July 10, 2015

California Dreaming ,Western States 2015

  I don't really know where to start with this one,Western was always a dream in the back of my mind,the someday I never really expected to materialize. The chances of getting through the lottery to enter are hard enough,combined with getting the necessary time off work and finances all coming together at once I really never expected to get there. It was a dream and sometimes that's enough to keep you going when the miles of running start to pile up. We dream of getting faster, of seeing new places and sometimes when work and life pile up we just dream of getting out the door and running till we can no longer take another step.
   Last year I decided to race Oil Creek 100 to get a qualifier for the W.S. lottery, I enjoyed the race and joked with Robyn while filling out the forms to enter W.S. after all nobody gets in with just one ticket.I had friends who were on their 5th or 6th year of entering so come lottery day we didn't even bother to follow the results. I found out while looking at a facebook post at Starbucks, while walking back to the car I couldn't hide my ear to ear grin,lucky for me my loving wife had also read the posts and the decision was instantly made to vacation in California in June.
  Training for this one would not be my usual process however, injuries from earlier in the year had me at a plan to not run any 100s till the fall, my Achilles was being its usual tempermental self and the new position at work meant throwing out my old training plans and starting from scratch. It was time to try something new and that started with Kathy Chesney from Ayr Physio, her approach of assessing my running form and strengthening my weak areas while making some adjustments to the way I run has paid back huge. That problematic Achilles is a thing of the past and my hill climbing is stronger than ever, its amazing how some tiny adjustments to form paid back such huge dividends. Winter runs were 80% road this year with an awesome group of people from Paris Runners Den who were gearing up for spring marathons, it seemed like each week got faster and further while the group runs made it much easier to get out in a really cold winter.
   Three weeks prerace I made an unusual adjustment for me, the new schedule had me running 6 days a week and with the mileage I was suddenly finding it hard to do anything, it was beyond the normal feeling of tired but running and I was starting to see a decrease in performance. I backed way off on running and did an unusually long taper this was not where I wanted to be and I was constantly reading posts about the heat at W.S. I was easing into a full blown taper nightmare. Lucky for me Robyn is used to telling me to suck it up during my taper tantrums while reassuring me that everything will be fine, I was over trained and stressed some rest and everything would come together.
   This brings us to race week,a smooth flight into Sacramento and an easy 2 hour drive brought us to the base of the mountain in Squaw Valley.Squaw in itself was beautiful and I instantly fell in love, a quick run part way up the mountain gave me my first lesson on how to behave in this race, slow and steady. Elevation was a new thing for me and the heat was definitely not in my favour ,my race plan was to get under the 24 hour mark and get the silver buckle but I was starting to think even that was optimistic. At the race kit pick up I met my friend Iris Cooper, probably the most effective heat runner I know due to her multiple Badwater finishes and got some tips that I took straight to heart, one of them was a cooling cloth around my neck that made a huge difference on race day.
   Race morning was warm and as I approached the starting line I was greeted by my amazing crew, I cant say thank-you enough to the group of people who travelled across the country just to support me. Some get a crew of one or two but I had an army and my own cheering section as I came through aid stations. It was simply amazing. The race itself is definitely the hardest but most beautiful I have ever competed in, every view was like looking at a postcard. The first climb was what had scared me the most while looking at the course profile and it was tough but it didn't hold a candle to what was to come through the heat of the day in the Canyons, massive switch back climbs and descents in temperatures well over 100 degrees were punishing. I kept thanking myself for holding back at the start while re assuring myself that if I could hold some for the last 60km after Foresthill it would be fine.
  The climb through Volcano canyon into Foresthill things were getting better, the heat of the day had broken and my body was starting to feel good, meeting my crew we ran strong into Foresthill aid station, I never change shoes but today I made the exception a whole day of sweat and dust and river crossings had my trusty Cascadias looking a little worse for wear. Fresh shoes and a pacer who was ready to roll I felt like a new man heading back out. We moved quickly through the next 25km and Rucky Chucky river crossing was in front of me long before I expected it, maybe the plan might actually work. I swapped pacers going into the river,probably not the nicest thing to do to a fresh pacer at 10pm but these guys are amazing and their only concern was keeping me on track. Rucky Chucky brought some emotions as this was the place where I was sure we could get done and pretty sure we would hit my 24 hour cut off. The next 15k was steady and while I was feeling the miles we were still getting in some good sections of fairly quick running, neither of us had a working watch at this point so it was just a guess that we were on pace. Coming into the Brown's Bar aid station I asked a volunteer the time, we were well ahead of pace now and it was what I needed to boost my spirit we took off quick from here to highway 49. One last pacer swap and 10ish km to go it felt amazing, we were still passing people and it was smooth sailing. I took time to look over no hands bridge and take it all in,I was here, running Western States and it was everything I had imagined and so much more.
The entry into Auburn is like a dream, big screen of the finish line with 3km to go you feel like your floating your whole crew can run with you at the end and my wife joined me as we rounded the track for the final .2 crossing under the finish banner I was still in awe ,it was done 22:41:29 well under my goal and I felt good.
   I cant thank all my friends,family, crew and pacers enough,you made this experience one I'll never forget ,your support though it all was amazing. Thank you to my wonderful wife for putting up with this ridiculous hobby I love so much. Finally thank you to the 1700 volunteers at Western States if any of you read this you really are the heart of this great event.

Dreams do come true.