Pam and I spent last Thursday through Sunday participating in the 2011 Western States Endurance Run. Pam ran it and I chased her for 100 miles from Squaw Valley to Auburn in the car. This was the second year in a row that Pam was able to compete in the “Super Bowl of Ultra Marathons.” There are way more people who want to compete in this race than there are slots available. Pam was able to avoid the lottery system this year and got in based on her top 10 finish from last year. Needless to say, she felt some pressure to deliver a strong performance this year as well. She never fails to deliver!
After dropping the kids off at Pam’s Parents on Thursday morning, we headed up to Squaw Valley and got checked in to the hotel. Pam was invited to an elite athlete barbecue so she ditched me at the door of the hotel and said see ya later!
We spent Friday, hanging out, shopping for last minute necessities, checking in, resting, and
freaking out about getting psyched up to run/crew 100 miles!
Pam started her little jaunt on Saturday morning at 5AM. Due to course changes because of an extremely high snow pack this year, I wouldn’t be able to see her until she reached the Bath Road aid station at mile 60.5! Pam was on her own (except for the aid station volunteers) for about 11 hours.
When she pulled in to Bath Road, I was able to run with her for the next 1.5 miles to Forest Hill. I gave her race updates, asked her questions, and tried to get a feeling for how she was doing. She told me she was doing OK, but that things could be going better and that she probably wasn’t going to make either of her big goals (sub 20 hours and finish in the top 10 again). One thing I did notice about her this year, was that she was MUCH happier at this point of the race than at the same point during last year’s run. This made me a happy guy. It seemed like she was taking what the day gave her and dealing with the fact that it might not be what she wanted it to be.
Pam pulled out of the Forest Hill aid station with her pacer Denise. Some of you may remember that I was supposed to run this section with Pam. But she was worried about my foot (so was I to tell you the truth) and Denise learned that we could split up the pacing duties at several spots along the last 38 miles, not just two. So we decided that Denise would run for 31 miles and I would run the last 7. I was a little bit upset at the time we made the decision, but it was the right decision both from a racing stand point, and a foot health stand point.
The next point where I saw Pam was 16 miles later, about three hours in time, right after she crossed the American River in a river raft because of the high water (again this year). She wasn’t very happy at this point. She couldn’t decide what to eat or drink, and was having lots of breathing problems. Who knew that running 100 miles could lead to breathing troubles?
Together, Pam, Denise and I walked up the really steep two miles from the river to the next aid station (Green Gate) where we got her refueled and on her way. Darkness was setting in here, and I was beginning to worry about how she would handle then next section of the course.
At this point, I headed back to the car, drove to the town of Cool and ate a quick sandwich and bought Pam a few sodas (orange and root beer) because it seemed to be the only thing that actually tasted good to her at this point of the race. Then I hopped on yet another shuttle to the HWY 49 aid station and began the long wait for Pam to come into mile 93.5.
Pam and Denise arrived at HWY 49 at 11:52 PM. She spent 7 minutes at the aid station there! That’s an eternity for Pam to spend at an aid station. The nurse weighed her in, made her pee (she was having issues producing enough urine at this point) and forced her to eat some soup and drink before we were allowed to head out on the last 7 miles of the race.
Even though Pam knew she wasn’t going to make 20 hours at this point, she was able to pass enough people and have enough people drop out of the race that she found herself in 10th placeâ€”but she didn’t actually know that part. When I told her she was in tenth, she said something like…”Ah F*cK! Now I have to race these last 7 miles…Dammit!”
We said a quick goodbye to Denise, and headed out on the trail. We spent the first half hour or so, just running, walking and chatting about the day. Climbing up out of hwy 49 was a walkable section of the trail, so we weren’t to focused on our speed at all. But after the trail flattened out, I tried to make Pam run some and she didn’t really want to do that.
I didn’t push her that much because according to my phone, the 11th place woman hadn’t even checked in at the last aid station yet. In the back of my mind though, I didn’t trust this computer update at all. There was no way that the next female was 37 minutes behind us…It just didn’t seem right.
So I spent the next few minutes trying to get Pam to run a bit more than she wanted to and checking my phone constantly for updates on 11th place progress. When the phone finally updated her position, We were shocked: The 11th place woman had left HWY 49 only 9 minutes after we did and the phone didn’t update this for at least an hour. That woman could be anywhere and we had no idea where she was.
Needless to say, slave driver Mac from Miwok, came back out and tried to whip Pam back into shape. I’m not proud to admit it, but I drove Pam to the point of tears before I backed off. I kept telling her that she wasn’t going to lose 10th place on my watch. We spent the last 3 miles (which are totally uphill and very hard to run) looking over our shoulders for head lights coming up behind us. We actually were passed by a few male runners and each time I saw the lights I would trot back on the trail to check the chromosomal configuration of the runners coming up on us. Each time I was ecstatic to see a male competitor chasing us down.
The last 1.1 miles from Robie Point to the finish line were still pretty hectic. Denise met us there and ran it in with us and she was truly a great help in getting Pam to move. We were still looking over our shoulders, but never got caught.
Pam finished the race in 10th place and a time of 20 hours and 40 minutes. She held off 11th place by a mere 4 minutes. These results are shockingly similar to last years’ as she finished in 10th place by 4 minutes then as well. Last year marked the fastest 10th place woman’s finishing time in the history of the WSER. This year, tenth place was 55 minutes FASTER than that! The woman running this race are getting faster each year. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. I love it. And we get to go back and do it again next year. That is if Pam wants to! We all know the answer though, don’t we?
Here is Pam’s account of the day. If you’ve ever wondered what goes through the head of someone when running 100 miles, it’s a great read. Check it out.