Monday, July 15, 2013

Race Preview: Tahoe Rim Trail 50M - Course Overview and Race Plan

Saturday is Tahoe Rim Trail 50M, and let's face it, I'm a terribly analytical person. I can not understand those who go into ultras withoout looking at a course map, barely glancing at an elevation profile, or having a seriously defined plan. But this works for me. So here's my course preview for TRT 50 Mile, based on my studying up, along with my race plan.

Note that my coach's race plan for me is probably just "Run and finish" as he's not as specific about this stuff as me.

Miles 1 to 12

Course Description from Race Website:
"From the start near the shore of Spooner Lake the course follows the dirt, North Canyon Road for approximately 1 mile before it ventures onto the Marlette Trail. The Marlette Trail meanders through conifers and Aspen groves as it climbs approximately 1,500 feet before descending about ½ mile to the shore of tranquil Marlette Lake. 

From Marlette Lake (7823 feet) you'll continue to climb on dirt roads to the Hobart Road aid station at 8120 feet. 

After leaving the Hobart Road aid station the course climbs past Marlette Peak and Harlan Peak before descending to the Tunnel aid station at the junction of the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Tunnel Creek Road." 

The Plan: Just hang out. There's going to be some pretty good climb - 1500 ft to the first aid station at mile 6. Take it easy, line up in the back, don't force yourself to go the speed of those around you in the line of powerhikers up the hill.

Aid Stations: Miles 6, 11.5

Miles 12 to 17

Course Description:
"After departing from Tunnel Creek aid station the course makes an approximate 6.3-mile loop to Red House aid station and back (with a significant climb near the end of the loop)."

Don't let the shortness of this description fool you. This is the section they also refer in other places as "infamous" Red House lop and "A Taste of Hell".

We hit the Tunnel Creek aid station at the beginning and end of this loop. In fact, the Tunnel Creek aid station gets hit 3 times in this one interesting single loop 50 mile course.

I've read things about the legendary Tahoe kitty litter sand, creek crossings (?), and mud in this section.

The Plan: Mile 15-19 is usually an unhappy place and there's a pretty good climb mile 16, so just take it so and fight those mental demons.

Aid Stations: Mile 17 (volunteers often set up an unofficial aid station at Red House but not official)

Miles 17 to 30

Course Description: "Upon returning to the Tunnel Creek aid station the 50M/100M course will travel approximately 6-miles north along single track section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. This section is mostly rolling with breath-taking views of both Lake Tahoe and the Washoe Valley. At the Incline Creek trail junction the course drops down towards Incline Village, offering spectacular views of the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. This new section of the course will provide views of Lake Tahoe not many but locals have seen. The Incline Creek trail will plunge down the mountain for approximately four miles and a loss of 2,000 feet of elevation, following the creek with many dives including twists and turns. As the trail flattens out towards the bottom you will come into the Tyrolean Village area directly behind homes. 100 Milers on your second pass in the middle of the night or early in the morning please be respectful of the residents there and keep the chatter to a minimum until you clear this area. Once you come to the pavement it is just a short ¼ mile to the Diamond Peak Lodge parking lot area. Proceed to the lodge where the aid station will be. This will be the 30 mile and 80 mile aid stations." 

The Plan: Fight through that mental bad place miles 15-19 usually is and get through the gradual uphill to Bull Wheel, remembering there's a great fun "Wheeeeeeee!!!" of a downhill on the other side of it. This is a two-way traffic section between Tunnel Creek and Bull Wheel too, that we hit coming back at miles 32-35. I should hit the top 10 50-milers, so count them off and wish them a "good job".

Miles 20-21 are typically my best in any distance race, so take advantage of it. But not from a viewpoint of busting my quads, more as a chance to get some faster pace while enjoying a recovery with the lower heart rate. If my heart rate is staying up, I'm killing my quads and that's not the goal here.

I would like to come into mile 30 around 3:35 pm (9 hr 35 min into the race)

Aid Stations: Miles 20.5, 30. This is the biggest stretch without aid, 9 miles, so fill up the hydration pack at Bull Wheel. I've heard Bull Wheel is bare bones and really just water, so if I need to throw some food into my pack at Tunnel Creek, it wouldn't hurt. A couple cookies fit in that front pocket of my Ultraspire Surge nicely. ;-)

Plan on taking honey stinger chews at mile 24 before the big downhill starts. My drop bag is at mile 30, so change socks if I absolutely have to (rain?), change shoes, and restock supplements.

Miles 30 to 34

Course Description: "From there the course will follow the dirt service road up the ski run and onto the Crystal Ridge ski run up and over the top of Diamond Peak resort at 8540 feet for a 1700 foot climb in just under 2 miles. The course drops  50 meters down to the Bull Wheel aid station (water and typical aid station fair only. No hot food) on the Tahoe Rim Trail. The course then returns to the Tunnel Creek Aid Station 3 miles south. (Turn right on the TRT) The average elevation is between 8000 and 8800 feet dropping to a low at 6888 at the Diamond Peak Lodge."

The Plan: This uphill is what people dread and can kill your pace for the rest of the race. I've seen pictures but I know that won't prepare me for how big this uphill is, plus adding the altitude. Take it super slow. I get the impression from talking to coach that there are small landings that I should stop and breathe every 2nd or 3rd one on the way up. Just be comfortable hanging out going up this hill for an hour. I can't rush it. It will only make the next 20 miles awful. It will be about 3 pm and exposed, so... SUN.

After the hill, cruise back to Tunnel Creek. Just take it easy and recover from what I just went through. Slow run. Don't walk this - if I'm aching for a walk, I can do the walking on the uphill at mile 35!

Aid Stations: Miles 32, 34.5

Miles 34 to 43

Course Description: "From the Tunnel Creek aid station, the course will follow the Tahoe Rim Trail south towards the Spooner Summit trailhead passing both Marlette Peak and Snow Valley Peak (and visiting both the Hobart Road and Snow Valley Peak aid stations)."

The Plan: Tunnel Creek to Hobart is a two-way traffic stretch. I will be there in that section between about 10 1/2 to 13 hours in. This means coming the other way I'll see 100 Milers running 18-23 hours. This means I should encounter the top 10 or so finishers! Focus on that. Watch for them; count them off.

Aid Stations: Miles 40, 43. At mile 40, get my headlamp out of my pack. With the shade of trees, I may need it before I get to the Snow Valley (mile 43) aid station. Per coach Jeremy: "Thank the boy scouts!" (at mile 43)

Miles 43 to 50

Course Description: "From the Snow Valley Peak aid station the course makes about 5.4 mile descent before reaching the Spooner Trailhead aid station at Highway 50 and connecting with the Spooner Lake trail for the final 1.7 miles to the finish."

The Plan: Um, finish? One way or another. Just finish.

Aid Stations: Mile 48.5, unmanned.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Realized I Was Too Tough To Kill

That hill had a purpose. It showed me I was too tough to kill....

If you missed my blog entry earlier today leading into this one about my past 10 weeks sleeping in an altitude tent, the reaction of people to it, why it's not cheating in the slightest, how my metabolic efficiency has improved during that time, then check it out here!

I had an awful weekend of running. I just had an awful weekend! I was lethargic and just felt really off. Even though the heat wasn't really much worse than usual, I felt like I was absolutely melting. It was not my weekend.

I've been training well, but my miles, eh, they never look that big. And then crewing Western States, and the added stress and lack of sleep of American Airlines screwing up our travel, losing our luggage, and running around making backup plans did NOT helpful. The whole week after being home, my resting heart rate in the morning was a little high.

Based on all of that, Coach Jeremy gave me Monday off, which meant I didn't get to do hills with my running group, the North Texas Runners. I would have to do them alone on Tuesday. I admit my faith in myself was feeling a little off at this point too.

The Workout

Coach's assigned workout was 24 hill repeats on a 60 ft gain, 0.15-mile long hill. That's a solid 12% grade. It's a darn good hill. So 6.9 miles (not counting warmup) on ONE hill. And a total of 1,440 feet of uphill and downhill.  So I would get about 1/7 of the gain/loss I would experience next Saturday at Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile, in a little less than 1/7 of the distance.

This translated into 1 hour, 45 minutes ALONE. 100 degrees in Allen, Texas when I started at 7:15 pm, and I finished as it was just finally totally dark at 9 pm.
Just a portion of the big hill, from another NTX Runners hill night

I kept consistent splits the whole way. Powerhike hard the up (which is what I, and many ultrarunners, would be doing on the mountains at Tahoe Rim Trail), and run easy all the downs.  Only short stops at the bottom on occasion to refill my water bottle from the water cooler I brought or take a drink.

And 18 repeats into it, the mantra entered my head, and I stayed strong the rest of the way:
I will finish Tahoe Rim Trail 50M. It might not be pretty. I might be the last person in my distance. Let's face it: most people my pace are no doubt doing the 50K. But the hill served its purpose. I knew I could beat all the ups and downs that Tahoe will throw at me because I'm determined to finish. Note that this includes the kitty litter sand hike of 1700 ft gain in only 2 miles at Diamond Peak - the climb is legendary. Yeah, you're climbing a freaking ski slope basically.
It's a wide elevation profile, so click on it to see it big!

So let's get ready for a 15-ish hour party at Lake Tahoe next Saturday. I'm hoping to find some blogging time before I travel next Friday to document more of my mental state so I can come back to it before future races. And my mental state I mean, yes, I know we're all insane in the the ultramarathon field, but the psychology of what will get you to the start and safely get you to the finish is completely fascinating to me, and I continue to learn so much about myself!

Sleeping at 10,000 Feet - Kinda

I've alluded to this fact in past posts, but I haven't talked too much about this.

Confession: I've been sleeping on top of a high mountain.... In Dallas, Texas. 


At the start of May, I rented a Hypoxico altitude tent to use in preparation for Bighorn Trail Run 50K in mid-June. It came on the recommendation of Twitter friend Jerry who had felt like it was really effective.

With 6 weeks initially to sleep in the tent before Bighorn, my big motivations for doing this were:

1) I never wanted to feel like I did at Jemez 2012 ever again. That race topped out at 10,400 feet, and I felt very very ill up there. We later found out my iron levels were non-existent, making my oxygen carrying capacity zilch, but I didn't know once my levels were restored, which took months, if I was still susceptible to altitude sickness. I hadn't really spent any time in a mountain environment, with or without iron in my blood cells, to know. But I knew that I felt like I was dying on Pajarito Ski Mountain in New Mexico last year. 10 steps then a minute of breathing. It took me 3 hours to go 6 hours that day before medical pulled me at mile 20 and put me on oxygen. Never again. That was a nightmare.

2) I'm already a back of the pack runner in ultramarathons. You add an altitude disadvantage in a race where most people live high, and I knew the Bighorn 50K could be a VERY. LONG. DAY. I was excited about the prospect of negating some altitude effects and running close to my slower-than-the-average-ultrarunner paces!


I didn't make a huge big deal about the tent because I thought the reaction would be what eventually I did get in a knee-jerk way from a few people: "Hey, That's Cheating!" Or it was a joking remark where you know 50% of the time, that's how they really feel.
Um, no, it's legal blood doping. It's like the elites moving to Silverton, Colorado, and living for 4 months there before Hardrock 100. It's the difference between an Ironman who has a $10,000 bike and one with a $2,000 bike.
It does not REPLACE training. It just helps to give an edge on top of whatever you bring to the party. Which means if you don't train right, it can only do so much.

The next reaction is "Oh my gosh, is it expensive?" The unit is actually rent-to-own for up to 8 weeks of use. So at any time up to the end of 8 weeks, I had the option to buy the Hypoxico altitude tent system I had been using and apply all my rental dollars directly to the overall cost.

This is what I eventually chose to do. After 6 weeks of use for Bighorn, I had 5 more weeks to the Tahoe Rim Trail race, so in buying it, I actually made up about half the cost in what that additional 5 week rental would be. And if I use it for just one more 6 week period in the next couple years, I'll have equaled out to what renting it the whole time would have cost. For the stupid crazy stuff we athletes can spend our money on, I found it rather affordable.
If you look in your closet and find any Lululemon apparel, you can afford it. If you have an expensive tri-bike, you can afford it. If you have multiple pieces of name brand running apparel or 10 pairs of running shoes not bought on clearance, you can afford it.
The last anticipated reaction I thought would come, and may have but people wouldn't say it to my face, is "Who Does She Think She Is?!?"
Yeah, I'm no elite. Far from. And a lot of the elites are using this system - Hal Koerner used it before winning Hardrock 100 last year, Timmy Olson used it this year, Karl Meltzer used it before Bandera 100K in January, Devon Yanko and her husband sleep in one, and the list goes on with many other high profile names.
But where those folks might see a 0.5% improvement to VO2 at the same effort, I see big improvements. And that's pretty cool. I actually provided all my pre-use and post-Bighorn metabolic testing data to Hypoxico in the hopes that it helps them show what this tent can do for "ordinary" or "average joe" ultrarunners like myself. I know teams of doctors follow the elites around, testing them routinely, but there are few like me using the tent, and probably fewer quantifying the improvements made by the tent.

So What Is This Thing?

There's a generator that produces some humming white noise, but the hose attachment to the tent is long so I put it at the far away end of our master bathroom, and it's not too noisy there. Good ambient noise anyway.

My tent is made for a queen sized mattress. They also make one for king size. The mattress and everything goes into the tent. The tent itself didn't take too much work to put together. Getting the big mattress in was actually the hardest part.

It is actually quite spacious inside. I can sit up in it without a problem. At night, here's my view:

A hose runs from the generator through a hole into the tent. The tent has giant flaps on each side that can be zipped open during the day when you aren't sleeping and folded up on top of the tent. The hose lets in the right oxygen level and when it's zipped up, the pressure in the tent is simulated to the high altitude then too.

Occasionally, during the day, I even work on my computer from the tent.
Cinna sees VO2 improvements too
It is hard to just jump out of at a moment's notice. You are zipped into this tent of plastic.
Plastic everywhere!

And it does get a little warm with all the plastic. Usually we keep our house at 76 degrees and a low ceiling fan setting in the master bedroom. With the tent and probably a little from the heat created by the generator in the bathroom, I kept the house each night at 74 degrees and a medium ceiling fan setting in the bedroom.

How do you do it?

Week 1 I started out at 4,000 feet altitude and slowly moved it up nightly until I was at 8,000 feet altitude. Hang out here a couple days, before I moved it up until I was at 9,000 feet altitude. I'm not going to lie - you sleep pretty bad during the adjustment time. It's very restless sleep. And I'm usually a pretty deep sleeper.

Once adjusted though, it's no different from a normal night... except you are in a plastic tent.

It takes 3-5 weeks to start seeing effects. I used it for 6 weeks leading up to Bighorn.

After Bighorn, I actually moved up to 10,100 feet of altitude. My oxygen saturation typically shows 87-90% at this altitude, versus the 98% we all walk around at if we're in good physical condition.

The system also had an exercise kit, where I can hook a mask up to the generator with a hose and run on a treadmill. I did this a handful of times, but for my use of time and the training I was doing, it was easier for this training phase to just go with the passive tent use.

There was also a suggested protocol, called Intermittent Hypoxic Training, where you sit for an hour a day. 5 minutes with the mask on, 5 minutes with it off. BUT the generator was set to 21,000 feet. In the life of a busy mom, I just couldn't make use of this protocol much. A dedicated hour of sitting doesn't come often. And at 21,000 feet, you can't just hang out and work on the computer. Your energy gets zapped and you just focus on not passing out. I'm not a doctor, but it refines alveoli in the lungs or some other such useful but not required aspect of adjusting to altitude.

Does It Work?

The elites seem to think so, and I personally think so too.

Right before Bighorn, we redid my metabolic testing, and without a big change in quality of workouts or total mileage, I saw great improvements.

Other sea level runners at Bighorn said they could definitely feel the altitude. Aside from an expected heart pounding in the head feeling on big uphills in the race, which would have been tough uphills even at sea level, I felt like I was able to run my normal paces at home. Even better...

Bandera 50K in January - very little climb, technical course - 9:52

Bighorn 50K in June - 5000 ft ascent, 8500 ft descent, technical course, 7000-8500 feet altitude most of the way - 9:30 (and that included going off course for 1.2 miles, so roughly 20 minutes off-course)

I knew I would be happy if I beat my Bandera time, so I was thrilled with this finish. And the tent helped give some confidence to pursue a race like Bighorn. Aside from me and my good friend Lesley, the other 30+ women in our age group were all from the 5 states right there around the race where they live at higher altitude.

I will stop using the tent once I go to Tahoe Rim Trail 50M next Saturday, and then I'll be able to tell you if it worked for that race, which averages about 9000 feet altitude the whole way.

In the meantime, I'm sharing the love and lending the tent to a friend who is training for Leadville 100, so he can enjoy 4 weeks of the effects!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crewing 2013 Western States 100 - Team Tim

Back in January, shortly after my friend Tim Steele had been picked in the Western States Endurance Run 100 Mile lottery, I had offered up to come along as Crew Chief. He's one of the nicest fellows you'll meet, I'm not sure he even realizes what a strong runner he really is half the time, and it would be his first 100 miler. Tim trained hard all through the spring and the warmup into a Texas summer, and suddenly it was race weekend.

A Disaster with American Airlines

I could write 5000 words on the chaos, poor communication, and general lack of care or backup plans for their customer, but I'll be brief on the disaster with American Airlines. What should have been a simple direct flight to Sacramento early Thursday AM turned into a 23 hour travel journey, including flying into San Francisco instead and me driving in the complete middle of the night for 3 1/2 hours to arrive in Tahoe City at 4 am. In the middle of it, American Airlines also sent our bags mistakenly to Sacramento - the luggage that had all of our clothes and, unfortunately, ALL of Tim's race gear and apparel. They said it would come during the next day with a nonchalant "no problem" attitude.

Race Eve Should Be About Rest

Instead, the luggage seemed more and more delayed with every call I made. So inbetween weigh-ins and check-ins and a trail briefing that should have been an exciting time, I was on hold with lost baggage office constantly trying to track down his race gear and we were all starting to scramble to figure out how to replace all of his race items if the bags didn't come. Who is "We"?

Our team was:
  • Tim Steele - runner
  • Meredith Steele - non-running and EXTREMELY supportive wife of Tim who would be my companion through the race.
  • Ace Gallegos - pacer for miles 62-80 and Tim's good friend
  • Nancy Goodnight - pacer for miles 80-100 and Tim's good friend.
I'll say it now and again later - this was an amazing team!

We got Tim checked in and through the medical area.
Taking his blood pressure
JB Benna from Journeyfilm, the makers of the film "Unbreakable" about the 2010 Western States, was there filming.

Tim told him he loved the film. I further commented to JB, "It's my favorite running film and my treadmill movie of choice. I've seen the movie about 8000 times." JB told us he was working on another Unbreakable movie, which is really exciting.

Tim and I then chatted with the gal in front of him in line for the picture-taking step of the check-in process, and I said after she left, "That was Bree Lambert. Girl's a beast. Ran 8th place at Lake Sonoma 50 this year!" Add to it that she was really nice too.

It was amazing how worn out we were from the 4 hours of sleep we had the night before. We kinda stumbled around for the next hour before the trail briefing in the hot sun. While it was long, the briefing was fun because you saw Gordy Ainsleigh, the race founder. 
Gordy in blue doing chiropractic care DURING the briefing.

And then they introduced the top 10 favorites in the men and women. A lot of names that I knew and people I greatly respect in the ultra community.
Top 10 expected females

Top 10 expected males
We made a couple stops after the briefing looking for race gear for Tim. Running shoes were a bit of a worry, but Reno Running Company had his style and size in stock and they put a pair on hold. Meredith and I spent our race eve driving an hour each way to Reno where we picked up the shoes and found a Sports Authority where we could pick Tim up some clothes and an outfit for each of us too since we'd been wearing the same clothes for 2 straight days.

Another couple calls to lost baggage office, then an attempt at going to bed, where I kept getting up with each set of headlights I saw outside the window, and then paced incessantly. If the luggage didn't come before we left for the race, while we now had enough gear to get Tim through, the hotel would have to hopefully hold on to the luggage, and I would have to drive over an hour back each way after the race to get the luggage. So it was stressful.

12:30 am, after I'd dropped asleep for an hour, I woke up to a loud knock on the door. The front desk guy was there with our luggage. Such a relief!

Race Morning

2:30 am. Yawn. Yeah, 3 hours of interrupted sleep. We packed up the car and were on the road by 3:30. At the race site, they had breakfast and coffee for the runners, and a nice place to wait inside. 
One of the top 10 favorites, Nick Clark, in the blue jacket.

Tim did a great job of just staying mellow. And then it was time to go to the start!

Everyone counted down from 10, and then they were off! They headed up toward Emigrant Pass, an approximately 2200 climb in less than 4 miles. We watched these ants run up this mountain.

Robinson Flats - Mile 29.7

We hurried to the location, getting a great parking spot. We used this downtime to get our gear all set up, since again, everything had arrived in the middle of the night. Digging through bags and suitcases there in the woods, LOL. We took the bus up the 1.5 miles of seriously narrow dirt cliffside road to the aid station spot. Up there we grabbed a spot and went to lay everything out. Meredith said, "where's the orange I cut?" She had put it in the wrong cooler (we had 3 styrofoam coolers - one for just ice, one for all the cold stuff, and one for just the cold stuff we wanted to take into the aid station).

So I jumped up and said I would go back down. While going down the shuttle to the car and back up, I missed all the top 10 elite men. Sadly didn't get to see Timmy Olson this year. :-(

But I did get to see all the top women!
Megan Arboghast - she's my hero!!

We hung out, tried to ignore or dodge some of the biggest bugs of our lives, and started to get really really hot (when we left the aid station, we could feel the breeze again; aid station was in a total dead zone for air movement!). We cheered all the runners, I briefly got to meet a twitter friend Desiree, and we made friends with a fellow named Jeremy from Utah.

When Tim came in, he was in good spirits. We cooled him down, added supplements to his pack, and Meredith cracked a joke (at my expense, LOL, but worth it!!).

Michigan Bluff - Mile 55.7

We had a good bit of downtime, so we went to Sugar Pine Pizza in Foresthill to eat, then we scouted the Michigan Bluff location (where there was no cell reception), and then finally tracked down a shady spot in town where we did have cell service so we could see his live online updates as he hit the intermediate aid stations. I managed to get a 45 minute nap in the hot hot car. It would end up being the 2nd hottest year in Western States history, with temperatures over 100 degrees.

At Michigan Bluff, we saw friends Anne, Isabelle and Dale (who have both run my New Years Double race before), Shaheen, and Nick. Tim came in to the aid station, gave me his pack to refill, and headed to medical to treat his blisters. He was still on a consistent pace and feeling good.

It was now 8 pm, so runners were allowed a pacer at that time, whereas before that they had to wait until mile 62. While I was not terribly excited about dropping everything to run 7 miles to wear Tim would meet up with his pacer Ace, I was really excited to do whatever my runner needed at that moment. I asked Tim, "You are allowed a pacer now. Do you want me to run you to Foresthill?" He said, no, he really felt good, and to drive on with Meredith to Foresthill. I was kinda glad he didn't need me, and even happier that his spirits were good if he wasn't desperate for an emergency pacer sub-in.

We warned him they were about to stop running the shuttle to parking so we might miss him at mile 62, but we would try our hardest to be there. We packed in a flash and indeed, the shuttle was stopping. So I ran / powerwalked a 500 foot climb over 0.7 miles in a rush to get the car to bring it back to collect Meredith and our gear. THAT was a workout.

Foresthill - Mile 62

We made it to Foresthill with 10 minutes to spare. It was now about 9 pm. Subway was closed but thankfully Nancy and Ace had bought a couple sandwiches, so we each grabbed a small piece and Tim was happy to have some real food when he arrived.

This was the first time I jumped in to treat his feet as he wanted to change socks. I drained the first blister with Ace and Nancy standing over me in the dark holding headlamps, and Meredith caught my split second facial reaction of "Oh my gosh, what am I doing here?" That face wouldn't happen again. I just had that one moment of reality before the crisis management of "GET THE JOB DONE" would kick in. Meredith was totally willing to handle the feet, but in the middle of the NASCAR pit stop that is crewing, I would just jump in and handle it as one of the items on the checklist to get him in and out, and honestly, she was usually taking some great photos of the experience and who wants to interrupt that. I couldn't fill her shoes there.

He and Ace set off, and we jumped in the car to head to our next point in the game of "hurry up and wait."

Green Gate - Mile 80

We drove to Hwy 49 to the town of Cool, CA. This involved a short period on a super windy mountain road at 11 o'clock at night, and a deer just right by the road as we made these hairpin turns. Both Meredith and I were on edge. We parked at Cool, where Nancy would end up hopping in our car and leaving hers. Everyone slept for almost an hour and a half.

Then we drove to Green Gate where we were able to get a pretty good parking spot. Next came a 1.2 mile walk on a rocky dusty road in the middle of the night in the dark. The walk felt like forever, not helped that we were all exhausted.

We set up at the aid station, then Nancy and I headed down toward the river. We met Tim about a mile from the aid station. I was a little sad we didn't beat him to the river crossing so I could have seen him cross and taken a picture.

The strategy I had proposed to Nancy went off well - she went ahead with Ace and had candid pacer talk. How was his attitude, his pacing, all the details of the last 18 miles Ace had spent with him. I enjoyed this time walking with Tim, also checking in on his mental game and how he was doing physically. We were prepared for the worst because many runners break down and question finishing around this point. Not Tim. He was in great spirits, laughed at my jokes, agreed about how beautiful it was out here in the middle of nowhere at 3 in the morning, and chatted back through everything while we powerwalked up the big climb to Green Gate.

At the aid station, I sat to treat his feet where we had agreed he would change socks and shoes. He says now he'll never forget my intonation as I asked, "So how does your pinky toe FEEL?" with my voice on edge. He said, "Like it has a blister." "OK!" I said. It was actually one HUGE blister on the top and an equally HUGE blister on the bottom. I drained several blisters, wrapped spots in duct tape, all by the light of headlamps. And then he and Nancy took off.

Heading back to parking on the 1.2 miles, Meredith sent Ace and me ahead as we powerwalked our way back. Sadly, Meredith was suffering from severe hydration from the hot long day we had and she threw up on the walk back. Thankfully a volunteer getting off shift at the aid station gave her a ride, so we arrived back at the car to find her waiting there for us!

Hwy 49 Crossing - Mile 94

We dropped Ace at Nancy's rental car so he could go back to his hotel and get cleaned up and some rest. Meredith was feeling tired since being sick and just needed some good rest. I had trouble sleeping and lightly dozed and caught up on the world on my phone a little.

6:30 am we took the school bus to the location of the Hwy 49 aid station. After a long wait, we saw Tim and Nancy and heard the announcer call his name out.

He weighed in and then plopped down into a chair. I immediately had the backpack there refilling supplements in his pack, talking to see how he was, and Meredith went to grab him bacon from the aid station. Nancy got his hydration pack refilled with water.

I asked him, "Feet feel great? Legs feel great?"
He said, "No and no. Let's go."
I said, "And they won't feel better until you're done. Let's get you out of here."
And then we helped him up, and he and Nancy were out of there. 2 minutes in and out.

To The Finish

It was only 6 miles, but we knew it would take him a while. We didn't know what traffic would be like though. Parking was actually relatively easy, and we found a good spot. We went into the stadium where the track was and waited on the bleachers.

We saw fellow Dallasite Neil Smith first, and I cheered and got his picture.

Then 5 minutes later, it was Tim's turn. He looked great. He was happy. He had a big smile. And he enjoyed his victory lap around the track.

Tim finished in 28 hours, 33 minutes.

After a lot of hard work and hot conditions, he had finished his first 100 miler with 19000 feet of elevation gain and 23000 feet of elevation loss on the course that is the Mecca for many of ultrarunning.

And here's a brief video of him moving through the finish corral. Getting the medal (you get the buckle later), and a final medical weigh-in.

As he cleaned and soaked his feet and had the doctor check over his blisters, I was happy to see twitter friend Sarah with twitter friend Desiree as her pacer, and then to see my friend Kai finish.
Kai finishes Western States 100

It was a long weekend, with way more stress than it should have been (thanks, American Airlines!!) and way less sleep than most of us endeavor to get, but it was so worth it. And our entire crew had worked together seamlessly, never bickering in our exhaustive state. A perfect matchup of everyone wanting to do whatever it took to get Tim to the finish. He did what so many wish they could - kept a good attitude and kept extremely consistent splits throughout the full 100 miles. Way to go, Tim!!
Tim declared we need a "TEAM TIM" selfie right after his race finish. Love this team!
Finally, here's a great video that Tim's wife, Meredith, put together to show the whole weekend!