Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Whole Western States Experience

I love Western States 100. Its history is a big deal in the ultrarunning community. They are a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting trail stewardship, maintaining the Western States trail year round, and facilitating medical research into ultrarunning's effects on the body. All those reasons are why I became a sponsor of the event 2 years ago through my company, The Active Joe. In 2 weeks, I'll be returning there with Robert Lopez, The Active Joe's sponsored athlete for this year.

While some are done with the hype of Western States or the lavish aid stations and crewing, it's just what this race is. And every time I go, I have several small experiences that show me the quality of our running community, and of what this race provides.

This was actually a draft blog post from after last year's race that just contained some notes. I've rediscovered it this week and flushed it out because I realized it had so much great stuff to share.

One overriding thing you will see in this retelling is how much the community takes care of each other. Yes, it's a competition. But no one will ever try to push anyone else down to pull themselves up higher. Well, they really shouldn't, and those who do are few and far between. I really hope the ultrarunning community never loses that!


Memories and Experiences of 2014 Western States Endurance Run


Mile 30 - Robinson Flat
  • Being the only one with cell service up on the mountain so I ended up the go-to person for live tracking for a bunch of strangers as word got around to the crews that my phone had some bars.
  • Helping a friend in the race at mile 30 when I gave her a cheer and she yelled "Can you do me a huge favor?" The cool thing at Western States is that no one will ever answer this with a no. I was excited to see and cheer my friend Melanie, but it was really cool to see that she was equally happy and excited to see a friendly face. As for the favor, I posted to her wall and tagged her boyfriend to let folks know she was feeling well so far after a back injury had led to no running for the 3 weeks leading up to the race.
  • Advising non-runners on how to crew their runner at the first major crew access aid station. Robinson Flat is a fun one because it's the first time that non-running spouses and parents are there to help their family. Many are not entirely certain what they've gotten themselves into. As runners came in, other crews made up of runners would pitch in, ask the important questions we know to ask, give pointed encouragement only a runner could, and advice fellow ultrarunners would know to give in that situation. We all wanted those first time crews and non-running families to succeed, and we would all try to help advise them on the track to pursue!
  • Having other crews step in to help each other. My friend Chris was pacing and crewing his friends Walt and Jay, but he helped out when Jenn and Jeremy each came through this aid station.

Mile 55 - Michigan Bluff
  • Seeing people flock to bug spray someone offered up. I was bit 2 times seconds after getting out of the car at mile 55 at Michigan Bluff. So I doused myself in bug spray, and Laura and I headed on the half-mile uphill hike to the aid station. We were joined by some other crews. Near the top, someone was spraying on bug spray. One of the people who had headed up with us asked if they could borrow it. Then like 4 others were like "Oh my goodness, yes, could I spray myself too?" This isn't rude to ask. Everyone looks out for everyone else out there!
  • After Jenn came through the aid station and left, all while another guy was still sitting in the aid station, I looked at him and said, "Why are you still here? You need to go!" And not feeling like a jerk because the reaction was, "Yeah, I know. One more second. I'm going, I'm going!" You really wish everyone could finish the race. It's not a competition for most of us out there.
  • They had stopped running the shuttle when we arrived at this aid station so we were able to park close. When I was leaving and Laura had started pacing here, I offered the one open seat in the car to a mom with two teens. She couldn't believe it. I drove her the mile down to her car and she headed back up to pick up her kids. We take care of each other. Even perfect strangers.
Mile 62 - Foresthill
  • Getting to spend the most time with a runner friend I'd had face to face in the couple years I've known him as we watched runners come into Foresthill at mile 62. I ended up at that aid station at the same time as my friend Kai, and we were able to talk about all sorts of things, details of our running, stories of our lives, for that 30+ minutes. It was really great to get to know him so much better than I had before.
  • Waiting after my runner Jenn came through because I had seen my good friend Jeremy's splits into mile 55 on the tracking website and knew his pace was slowing and being worried. I walked a half mile back to walk him in and see how he was. Ultimately he missed cutoff, but I am really glad I was there for my friend in the middle of nowhere at midnight when he had to DNF and knew I could be there for him without sacrificing my ability to crew and pace Jenn effectively.
  • Not vomiting as Jenn lanced a massive blood blister under her big toe nail while I used my headlamp to give her light and tried to look away all at the same time my face and light were pointed right at it. Ick. Engrained behind my eyeballs when I close my eyes.
Mile 80 - Green Gate
  • Having to parallel park in the dark at 1 am with a rental car that is a bigger vehicle (small SUV) on the side of a dirt road when I have very little experience parallel parking and yelling out my window begging the folks in the car behind me to help guide me into the spot so I didn't hit anything. And of course they helped.
  • Hiking 1.5 miles, with a 715 foot descent, on rocky dusty dirt road into the aid station, with a bunch of other crew and pacers, because that's just what you do to take care of your runner. And you don't think twice about it.
Mile 99 - Robie Point
  • Having an Air Force guy who had chatted our crew up a few times throughout the experience see us and run with us for a half mile, letting us know he had seen Laura at the finish line. His excitement for Jenn energized us both as we had hit the pavement and it was so hot and sunny.
  • Seeing runner friend Jesus at the aid station and him running with us, letting us know there were 4 turns into the finish to make and snapping some great pictures of us.
And of course, seeing the start, crewing the whole thing, supporting Laura as she paced Jenn 20 miles, then pacing Jenn myself for 20 miles, and then her finishing the race and collecting her buckle? So awesome. My pacing report for the last 20 miles is here if it's helpful to anyone. :-)

Happy Running! 17 days to another year of Western States!

1 comment:

  1. Have fun, and get Stevie Ray Lopez to the finish line.

    ReplyDelete