Western States 2010

Western States 2010
Snow Field at Squaw Vally

Friday, July 23, 2010

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Well, it has almost been a year since I last posted on my blog. It has been pretty much uneventful since I last posted except for the fact that I got into the GRAND DADDY 100 MILER of them all---The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run!!! Yep, they pulled my name out of the hat back in December of last year---only had about 17% chance of getting in. I couldn't believe it!! I actually was in tears when I found out.

When I last left you I said that Leadville was going to be my one and only 100 miler.....but.....after thinking about it some more I decided to throw my name in to Western States. I figured my chances are pretty low of getting in but if I was going to run another one it would be the premier 100 mile event of the country. So in October of last year in the 2 week window to get your name in the lottery I decided to go for it. 6 weeks later it was official....I was in.

So you would think I would have wrote about this earlier. You would think I would have had a count down. You would think that I would have wrote about Training Camp. No---I wanted to keep it simple. No distractions! Just train like I did for Leadville and I would be fine. Get that belt buckle and walk away. It never works out that way does it?!?!

Training Camp weekend (Patrick Perry, Brian Pawley, and myself) climbing Devils Thumb
So training stepped up in April with my first event of the season being the Rockin K 50 miler. I came out of that relatively unscathed with a 50 mile PR time of 10:04. Not bad for the rolling hills of Kanopolis State Park. The following weekend was Brew to Brew. 7:39 later I rolled in to Lawrence feeling great. The next weekend---the Lawrence Marathon. I got suckered into going faster than I wanted to and ended up with a respectable 3:39 marathon but the fatigue started to show from the high mileage weekends. The last weekend of April was the Free State 100k. I will just say it ended up being the Free State 44 miles. Then came May---with a trip to Vermont to help Danny Miller complete 200 miles---I got in 70 over a 2 day period of time. 2 weeks later was the 50 miler at Clinton lake---I was asked by Gary Henry to run it so I could evaluate course marking. Well, I didn't have a problem with the course markings because I knew where I was going. Many others didn't and became lost. I wish I had too...it was a long day and I bonked early and often. By the time 8 hours rolled around I hadn't even put in even 40 miles yet. Slow day indeed but with the mud and the heat it was good training. I quit at 37 miles....not because I was done like Free State but instead because I had a BBQ to go to in KC that evening and if I continued I would have been late. Then along came training camp---70 miles of running on the course. I wish all my vacations could be like that. It was just a whole lot of fun discovering the trail I would be running in 3 short weeks.

Fast forward....Time to travel west for the race!!! The plan...fly into Vegas with Ed Payne one of the crew members and meet up with my best friend Brian and his wife Dawn (they live in Vegas). We flew in on Monday. On Tuesday Brian, Dawn, Ed, and myself did a rafting tour of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Also on Tuesday I had the opportunity to do a 15 minute radio interview with Frank Boal on WHB 810 Radio. It was a fun little gig on the show Spokes, Strokes, and Strides. We would leave for Lake Tahoe on Wednesday morning....a 10 + hour drive through the desolate Nevada landscape.

Lake Tahoe!!!!
We made it to Lake Tahoe on Wednesday evening. It was the 2nd time I have made it to the area in my life. Lake Tahoe is absolutely beautiful. We got settled into our hotel for our stay and then Ed, Brian and myself went out for a short run. We only went for a few miles but you could tell that we were at altitude. It is about 6500 feet at Lake Tahoe and you could tell from our breathing that the air was a little thinner here.Thursday morning.....I decided I didn't want to buy into the hype. I didn't want to go over to Squaw Valley just yet to check out the starting area. That would come at medical check in on Friday. So Thursday was pretty uneventful---We spent the morning at a farmers market and then took a nice drive around Lake Tahoe. As I said before Lake Tahoe is a great place to be. A few years back Brian and myself had the idea of trying to hike all the way around (165 miles) in 5 days. That year snow was pretty bad and we got lost a few times so we only made it about 1/3 of the way in 3 days. Someday we will be back to try to get the rest of it in. At the time I don't believe either one of us knew we were so close to the start of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. The start is only a few miles down the road in Squaw Valley.

AinsleighAinsleigh and getting my picture taken with him!!! Gordy started this whole thing 37 years ago. The grandfather of 100 mile races. I think I will print picture out and put it next to my picture with Bill Rodgers at the 100th running of the Boston marathon in 1996.

Me and Gordy!! I am the clean cut one. WOW!!!!

So once the medical check was done I mingled with my crew at the starting line before the mandatory meeting in the afternoon. This was the first time the nerves hit. Standing at the starting line of the most prestigious 100 mile race in the country. The emotions begin to flow. I trained so hard to get here. To finish this race would be the pinnacle of my athletic career!!

My race photo--"Representing KANSAS!!!"
My male crew members--Danny Miller, Gary Henry, Brian Pawley, and Ed Payne.
Female Crew!!! Erin Manning and Dawn Pawley!!!
My pro shot.
Bring it on!!!!

The Crew. Solid as a Rock!!! I can't thank all of you enough for your help!!!

One last chance to rest before the trip to Auburn.
Saturday morning----race day. The day I was waiting for since that cold winter day that they announced my name in the drawing. My crew got me to the starting line in plenty of time. It was a cool morning with lows into the low 40's.
Time to roll!!!

"Hmm....I wonder if I can carry this whole platter of food with me to Auburn"

The Start!!!!

The start......Well, I got up to the starting line with about 15 minutes to go. It was crazy energy. I just kept focusing on the starting line banner. Trying to take mental pictures of the start....memories that will be with me for a life time. I kept thanking God for the opportunity to be here....a once in a lifetime event. The clock counted down and we were off at 5am on this Saturday morning in June.

The rest is a blur to tell you the truth. But here is a brief description of the race.

We started the climb up to the top of Immigrant pass...a 4 mile hike to the top of Squaw Valley Ski Resort. As we went up the sun came out and showed the beautiful views of the area. Here is a pic from near the top of Squaw Valley looking back. You can see Lake Tahoe in the distant background.
Squaw Valley Snow field--Lake Tahoe in the distance.

My goal was to get under 24 hours and for the first 23 miles or so I was on track. The snow was bad up top and down the back side of Immigrant Pass (I fell 3 times in the snow) but I made good progress. I made it to Duncan Canyon in great shape around 10 minutes in front of 24 hr pace. I met up with my crew members Ed, Gary, and Erin. They helped me move on through in good time.

The next step was the hike up to Robinson Flat. It was getting hot at this point of the day and I tried not to push the pace as we moved up the mountain side. I was already feeling a little fatigued as I ran some fast miles on a fairly flat section of gravel on paved road between 13 and 20 miles. With it warming up it was time to just relax and take the course as it comes. The climb up to Robinson flat was gorgeous but is also open and exposed in places. A fire had went through this area at one time and all of the pine trees were gone. As we climbed up into Robinson Flat the snow got bad again. Big drifts to climb up and over. Even with the slow pace I was right on 24 hr pace into Robinson Flat. What surprised me about Robinson Flat was that we still had about a mile of climbing up out before our big descent into the teeth of the course. This climb was difficult because of the snow drifts that were on the road and took more time then I realized.

At the top it was finally time to descend and descend we did!!! I noticed at this time I was getting passed by a few runners as we headed down a beautiful stretch of trail at the top of the world!! Here I thought I was a good down hill runner but apparently not as good as I thought. With the fatigue of 30 miles already on my legs I was braking too much down this stretch. Some runners from the area passed and told me to get use to the down hill. They said "Plan on the next 2 hours of being all down hill".

Dusty corners---geez--wonder how it got it's name??
Next up....Dusty Corners where I would meet up with Dawn, Brian and Danny for the first time of the day. Only 38 miles into the race but already 8.5 hours in....a whole work day on my feet and it is only 1:30 in the afternoon. I noticed at this point I was around 30 minutes behind 24 hr pace and was quite discouraged....where did the time go? I ran pretty good the last section but I was slower on the down hill then what was needed to keep pace. I also knew deep down that 24hrs was going to be out of the question at this point. I was tired and the next 24 miles to Forest Hill are some of the hardest miles on the course in the heat of the day. Time to regroup and change expectations.

At Dusty Corners I made the first mistake of the day. I had Brian give me a Arizona Ice Tea Can...yes one of the big ones. I downed the whole thing at once. Needless to say the stomach wasn't too happy about 3 miles down the trail and my pace slowed greatly for a few miles as I regrouped mentally and physically.

A few miles past Dusty Corners is Pucker Point. A beautiful section of trail that overlooks the American River from above. Right before this point Henry Bickerstaff from Oklahoma came running by. I met Henry at training camp 3 weeks earlier and by chance he was also staying in the same hotel as I was the night before the race. Henry was feeling pretty good at this point and buzzed by me as my stomach was settling from the tea bolus. Of course this caused my competitive juices to flow. Henry is in his mid 50's and I wasn't about to let him go by unchallenged. We basically jockeyed back and forth over the next 4-5 miles as we headed into the canyons and the heat of the day.

We started down into Last Chance Aid Station and started the climb up to Devil's Thumb. I forgot to switch out salt caps with the crew at Dusty Corners. Because of this I began to get my electrolytes off balance. By the time I climbed to the top of Devil's Thumb I was tired and overheated. I was crashing bad. It is hard to eat when you are climbing and it is hot. They weighed me at Devil's Thumb. Right at the starting weight!!! Great. Keep moving I said to myself but I was exhausted. I sat down for the first time of the day 47 miles in and 11 hrs gone. The aid station workers sponged me down. It felt great at first but then a chill came over me. I got cold and here it had to be in the mid to upper 80's!!! They actually put a blanket around me. One of the things they serve at this aid station is popcicles---for when hell freezes over I guess at devils thumb--after the chill's I wanted nothing to do with popcicles. Henry came by me again at this point as I set in the chair. Time to go. Thanks Henry!! I would have set longer but you were good motiviation to get moving again. I asked for salt capsules but they said they were out....not a good time to be out of S-caps but out of the aid station I went to chase down Henry again!!

Gary and Brian planning there next move!!

Down we went into the canyon of Eldorado Creek. I felt pretty good during this section but it was hot, hot, hot. The climb up out of the canyon to Michigan Bluff was a pain in the butt but I made it to see my crew of Erin, Ed and Gary once again. 55 miles done and I was cooked too. 13.5 hours in---6:30 in the evening and it was still warm out. The aid station workers were worried about me. I was exhausted. I gained weight---I believe I was up 3 pounds they said. I told them I just needed some salt and I would be fine. They were also worried about my sunburn. I wasn't worried about it as much as I was worried about time. I wanted to be in Foresthill at this time but I was still 7 miles from there. The crew pieced me back together getting much needed salt down and I was off to Foresthill where I would meet up with Danny to pace me. I needed that boost and it was coming soon.

Coming into Foresthill
My pit crew changing the tires on the race car.
Forest Hill----ahhhhh----FOREST HILL!!! I was so looking forward to Forest Hill. 100k into the race....gentle down hill for the next 16 miles and a pacer to boot. Unfortunately daylight was short when I got there. My crew gave me a much needed break and like a pit crew worked me over for the next big leg of the race. Down to the Rucky Chuck river crossing.

Heading out of Foresthill. The mental work begins!!
Danny was big help during the early evening hours. I actually picked up my pace for awhile. We rolled into Rucky Chucky in descent shape. We crossed the stream in a boat this year because of high water. Once across I met the crew again. At that point I was exhausted and it was getting close to 2am some 21 hours into the race. So I decided to sit down for a little while before the climb up to Green Gate. But guess who got me out of the chair and going?? None other than Henry from Oklahoma. He passed me again!!!
Rucky Chucky River Crossing

So this is what mile 80 feels like!!!

I don't look tired do I??

It was time to get moving again. This time it was Brian's turn to take the rains. At this point I don't remember much other than getting grumpy with Brian as daylight broke into a beautiful Sunday morning. I am not sure what I was so upset about....I was finishing one of the greatest races in the world. Oh, ya and Henry would have kicked my butt if he wouldn't have got pulled by medical with 15 miles to go. He was over weight and had to sit for 45 minutes before they let him go on. Also, I can not figure out how it took me almost 7 hrs to go the last 20 miles to Auburn. At some points I must have been really crawling. It did become a death march as it warmed up Sunday morning. I just wanted to get it done.

Brian leading the way. Boy was I grumpy!!

Mile 93.3--The wheels where coming off at this point.
Once I hit Robie Point in Auburn I think I slowed down even more. This time just to soak it all in and savor the moment. I don't know if I will ever have the chance to come back here and do it again. That's the thing about these 100 mile runs. They take a lot of work. The chances of getting in are pretty low too. A lot of effort goes into just the preparation of such a feat. So with that in mind I slowly made my way to the track. Would I like to come back and do it again? Sure. Will I? Probably not. I think if I make it out here again it will be to help someone else finish the race by pacing or to volunteer. It was an event I will remember forever.

Coming into the Track. 300 yds to go!!!

With that I will leave you with this quote. It is from -- Adlai Stevenson, What I Think (1954), delivered at Princeton University Commencement, 1953 and read at the conclusion of the annual Western States Endurance Run awards ceremony.
"Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don't forget when you leave why you came."
Kissing the finish line---how sweet it is to be home!!!


Got Buckle!!! YOU BET!!!

My crew...Solid as a rock!!!
Time to go!!!
<><><><><><><><><><><><>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>&lt;>Gary and Brian making a plan as darkness falls. &lt;>


  1. Thanks for the post. If I ever get the opportunity to venture West and tackle the mountain lion, I will be asking you if you want to come with.
    Very cool to read your recap of the 100 mile scramble. Marvin

  2. NIce job Greg! Nice recap too, but not as cool as seeing you finish in person at Leadville.

  3. I just started running trails with the KC Trail Nerds and have heard your name a lot! WOW!!! I can only imagine what it feels like to accomplish such an amazing feat!! Congratulations on an awesome accomplishment!

  4. This is great, sweetie! What an experience...I continue to be in awe of you and your running accomplishments...hope I can talk you into helping me do a 100 one day....!
    I've said it at least 1000 times, but...congrats on doing something really phenomenal....I'm very, very proud of you! :)

  5. Greg, this is too impressive. Way to go! I remember running with you at the Clinton Shores weekend run (casual, for sure) and maybe once or twice at WyCo; man it's AWESOME to see you have accomplished something so personally fulfilling!

    Way to go,

  6. Greg -- Amazing story. Read every word and was fascinated by your endurance and stamina. What a fantastic journey. Cathy Knight

  7. Very impressive race...Nice photos.. Lake Tahoe is such a great view..


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