Western States 100 was a very satisfying experience.
I enjoy ultrarunning more for the opportunity and ability to traverse long distances through beautiful and diverse terrain than for the "like" of running itself.
When I had lived in the Folsom-Fair Oaks area in the 1980's, I was not fond of running. I did triathlons for a short while but quickly migrated to bicycle racing. Being a cyclist during those years, I trained on the roads in the Sierra foothills and mountains. One of my most memorable back-to-back bicycle rides was doing the 100+ Mi Markleeville Death Ride in the Alpine County-area and the next day riding my bicycle 100miles from the top of Carson Pass back to where I lived in Fair Oaks. My favorite race was Nevada City Classic held on Fathers Day. I remember hearing about AR50 and WS100 endurance runs back then and thinking that those people were insane to do that type of distance on foot. It seemed to me that the bicycle was a better mode of transportation for those distances. I would go hiking occasionally, especially in Yosemite during the spring and autumn. But the seven to ten mile distance on foot in the Sierras was my hiking limit, and seemed very long to me.
Fast forward 12 years. I had taken up figure skating as my exercise/sport in Texas. A combination of being forced off of the ice for a few months from falling on my hip while landing a lutz jump and a friend asking me to help her train for a 5K, led me to start running again in 1999. I made a trip in Sept 2000 to the Sacramento -area and to visit Yosemite . With the 10month running base I had at that time, I was able to do a ~20mile hike from Curry Village up to Olmstead Point and back along the Snow Creek Trail. (photos from that hike: http://www.oocities.com/llh_06/Yosemite_2000.html). This hike was an eye-opener... upon returning to Texas, I searched the web and came across Blake Woods' trip report of his FastPack of John Muir Trail. Reading the report I was left intrigued, wanting to do something like that someday too. Suddenly I saw running differently---- as a means to an end , instead of just something to suffer through in an effort to get some regular exercise. I now began to understand what lured people into events like AR50 and WS100 (those were the only two ultrarunning events that I had ever heard of at that point in time)..Those people did not seem quite as insane to me now, but 100miles still seemed like an ungodly distance to cover on foot in 30hours. Not realizing it at the time, the seed had been planted to one day run Western States.
The 1990's had been a difficult decade for me. Stumbling into trail and ultra-running has turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened. It reawakened the desire to work hard for something and to feel a hunger to achieve something for myself on a different-level . It made me go to the proverbial dusty closet and look for bits and pieces of the "old Linda" who use to train hard for bicycle racing and loved being in the mountains and foothills on training rides all day.
A year later, in Sept 2001, I returned to hike in Yosemite (Tuolumne to beyond Vogelsang Pass and back) and then run on a relay team in Norm's Sierra Nevada Endurance Race. It was my first marathon distance and I ran the first leg which started in Granite Bay and ended at NoHands Bridge. During the 1980's, I had used Hwy 49 through the Auburn Ravine as one of my frequent bicycle training routes and never paid much attention to this old bridge. Standing on No Hands Bridge after I finished the run, the bridge now seemed to hold more significance and I was curious about the rest of the WS trail.
I returned to the Sacramento-area in April 2002 to run AR50 as my first 50Miler, and again in Sept 2002 to run RDL100 as my first 100miler.
In the week before RDL, I spent two days up in Tahoe National Forest exploring sections of WS course between Red Star Ridge AidSt and Foresthill (photos from Tahoe Natl Forest). The Sierras are my favorite; I love granite and the way it reflects sunlight and moonlight. I wanted to do WS100 as my first mountain 100; and I was fortunate to be selected in the lottery on my first try in Dec 2002. My wish came true and I felt grateful. I promised myself that I would not take the opportunity for granted and would train hard.
For the first week following the December lottery, I was on a cloud. Then the reality of it all began to set in. I realized much work was ahead of me in the coming 6 months. I needed to improve my endurance and downhill-strength if I wanted to finish under 30hrs. Having experienced firsthand the 'curse of the dead quads' in the final 7-8 miles of 2002 BigHorn 50miler, I did not want to repeat that experience at WS. I posted the WS Elevation Profile on the bulletin board by my desk as a constant reminder of the need for consistent hillwork.
I live in a suburb of Houston, TX. The Houston-area is a coastal flood plain: very flat. The closest hills are over near Austin, about 120-150miles from my house. I made trips to the Texas Hill Country to do back-to-back runs on weekends that I was not entered in a race. Most of my hillwork was done at McKinney Roughs Nature Park on a ridge that reaches down to a scenic bend of the Colorado River near Bastrop , and also on the network of rocky hilly trails at Barton Creek Wilderness Park in Austin.
My training went well. I was consistent and followed the advice provided in the WS Information Guide. I built up my base mileage in January through March. during each of those 3 months I entered an ultra event : Bandera 100Km in January, Franklin Mountains 40Mi in February, Rucky Chucky Roundabout 50Km in March. Then April and May were the workhorse months of my training. I averaged 52miles per week during April and May (which is high mileage for me).. with the high week being ~70mile and the low week being ~35miles. I ran Ouachita Trail 50Mi in April and attended the WS100 training camp in late May. My final training run was an effort to simulate the canyon section of WS during the heat of the day.... I did 46 repeats on a hill in McKinney Roughs Nature Park that has ~220 of elevation change across ~0.28miles for a total of ~10,000 ft ascent and ~10,000 ft descent across 26miles. By 12noon, as the sun became more direct , there was very little shade on the trail. The temperature hit 100 degrees during the last few hours of the run. After finishing that training run, I felt confident to handle anything that the WS Canyons could throw my way.
I took a full 4-week taper prior to WS and felt very well-rested going into the event. Satisfied with my training, all that remained was to execute wisely to the finish line on Race Day.
| Western States 100Mi Endurance Run
June 28-29, 2003 by Linda Hurd
|Photo #1: Wildflowers by the complex of buildings near end
of dirt service road reminded me of those at BigHorn.
|Photo #2: A view of Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe taken from the bungee jumping pad.|
|Photo #3: A photo of Dick Layne and Gigi.|
|Photo #4: A photo of Gigi and Linda|
|Photo #5: Linda sitting on a pile of granite boulders
|Photos taken during hike partway up to the Escarpment on Thursday 6/26 morning.|
| A running friend of mine from Houston , Gigi Wark, offered to crew me at Western States. A good friend of hers, Doug Spencer , had been my pacer at RDL100 and he agreed to pace me at WS100.
Gigi and I flew to Sacramento on Wednesday before WS. This was Gigi's first visit to this part of California. Wednesday afternoon, I gave Gigi a quick tour of where some of the major checkpoints were located: Foresthill School, Hwy 49 Crossing/Cool Firestation, Sliger Mine Rd and Auburn HS/Robie Point. We drove down Drivers Flat Road to Rucky Chucky River Crossing so that she could see what it looked like in the daytime . Gigi likes water and enjoyed the short visit to the middle fork of the American River. After going to Sliger Mine Road, we stopped in old Georgetown for ice cream cones. (Georgetown had been along one of my favorite bicycle training routes ....oh, the simple pleasure of visiting old haunts ).
Early Thursday morning, we drove up to Squaw Valley. We checked into our reserved unit at Squaw Valley Lodge, which turned out to be so conveniently located to the race start. Then we walked up the first 3.5mile stretch of the course (that dirt service road). Enroute to the top , we believe we have made a wrong turn. Behind us was another person walking , so we slowed down. He eventually caught up and introduced himself. He was Dick Layne (sp?) of the Bay Area. After some discussion he felt also that we must have missed a turn-off, so we backtracked and eventually found the correct service road. Dick entertained us with his stories from the times he has run WS and introduced us to other folks who were descending the service road as we were going up. After reaching the point where the WS course departs the service road on to single track, we turned around and walked back down. We took some photos at the top and during the descent which are shown below. That evening we went to the UltraList dinner that Stan Jensen organized.
Friday morning Gigi and I walked to Starbucks in the Village for coffee. While sitting in Starbucks drinking coffee, we met a runner named Bob who entertained us with WS stories. He had been enlisted this year to transport dropbags from Squaw to Robinsons Flat . Returing to the condo unit, Gigi helped me double check dropbag contents. Then at 9:30AM she left to drive to Sacramento airport to retrieve Doug and his younger daughter Katie.
I proceeded to turn in my dropbags and go to the medical check-in. The scales were weighing on the light side... by about 5 pounds (IMO). The scale that Dr Lind was using for his medical study check-in seemed to give a more accurate weight for me. During the morning medical check-in and afternoon pre-race briefing, I saw some of the other runners from Texas: Austin-runners Sammy Voltaggio and Rick Gastelum, Houston-runners German Collazos , Juan Galvan and Kelly, and Letha Cruthirds from Dallas. Red Spicer , the RD for Palo Duro Canyon Trail Runs, was also there to give his support and I ran into Chirssy at Stan's check-in table. I also saw some runners that I had met at the WS training camp.
Gigi, Doug and Katie arrived back to Squaw. We went to the poolside and soaked in the hot spa and then to an early dinner at a rustic italian restaurant off the beaten path in Tahoe City which was recommended to us by Bill Nickatis. Returning to Squaw Valley Lodge after dinner, everything was set out for the morning ...it was time to sleep; less than 12 hours until race start!
|Pre-Race days in California:|
|I wanted to devise a realistic set of goals for WS. I had run RDL-100 in 27:46. An analysis of of runners who had previously completed both WS and RDL, showed (in a very general sense) that their WS finish times were about 2 hours slower than their RDL finish times. Adding two hours to my RDL time, put me at 29:46 -- right up against the 30hr cut-off. My hope was that with good hilltraining and the experience I had gained from having run RDL, that I could make up atleast an hour of time..... After WS Training Camp, I made a final refinement to my plan. Analysis of my splits through the canyons during the Day 1 training run led me to select a time goal of 28:30, which provided a 90minute buffer for unexpected delays and problems that could crop up across the 100mile distance.
Thus, the three goals I selected for WS100 were:
1. "BASIC" Goal: To finish under 30hours
2. "WOULD BE NICE" Goal : To finish under 28:30
3. "WOULD BE GREAT" Goal: To beat my RDL100 time of 27:46.
|(photo taken from Escarpment aid station looking back toward Squaw and Lake Tahoe)|