Time to reflect on a race that has stolen my heart…
Days before the start of Western States, I began to reflect on the exact moment I committed to this venture. It brought me back to the image of runners entering Placer High School Track, exhausted yet elated by the effort, while being welcomed by family and friends with open arms. That is totally why I committed. I wanted to experience something that special and so deeply emotional. Not easy by any means, but an opportunity to test my body’s limits, my resilience and my courage in the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race.
I had a great 6-month build up to this race. I stayed healthy and consistent. No magical workouts, but also no disappointing workouts. I worked with Ian Sharman on getting Western States specific ingredients for success. I showed up to this race ready for anything.
With a 3am wake up call on race morning and solid breakfast of multiple pieces toast, avocado, and almond butter, I tried to sip on coffee, but butterflies in my stomach would not allow it. I headed for the start to pick up my bib number at around 4:30 am and with little time to spare, I showed up at the starting line where big smiles, hugs & high fives all around were shared with family and friends.
My strategy for this race was to keep things simple. I gave myself two jobs. First, manage heat by applying ice as often as I could. Second, to be very efficient at the aid stations. Don’t linger. Get what you need and get moving. Since my goal was to do the entire 100 miler on the GU Roctane Drink, I had very little to manage. Everything I needed in one bottle per hour was as simple as it was going to be.
I needed to make this race manageable for myself and for my crew since we were all first timers. Richie Boulet (my better half) and Bridget Duffy (my other better half) were the awesome crew that kept fueling me with more than Roctane Drink. They fueled my soul, too. I am very grateful to them for approaching this race and their crewing with as much passion as me. It was so great to see them every time. Eventually all I needed from them was to tell me when I would see them again and that is the only chunk of time I would put my attention to.
After reaching Robinson Flat, I was in good spirits. I ran relaxed and happy and felt optimistic about what was ahead of me. With only 6 minutes behind Joelle, I continued to run within myself. Well, that feeing got crushed soon after leaving the Robinson Flat aid station because I went off course and so did Joelle. We ran into each other about a mile down on a single track and realized we were off course. I turned around, put my head down and spent the next 30 miles chasing Emma and Stephanie, who had opened up nearly 20 minutes on me. I was determined to get up to the front and put my self in a position to race from Foresthill to the finish. Don’t push too hard and give it all away before you reach Foresthill is was what I told myself. Giving up was not an option. I was feeling good, I had a good stomach and I was managing the heat well. I was poised and listened to my heart and made a push to feel like I was still in the race. 12 min back at Last Chance, 10 min back at Devil’s Thumb, 6 min back at Michigan Bluff. I was coming back strong and honestly I was getting good energy back from my crew and the volunteers at each aid station. I told myself that all I needed to do is run to the next aid station. I came into Foresthill with a small lead, but probably not as fresh as I had hoped.
My right knee started to hurt and Richie could tell I was starting to over compensate a little, but seeing my co-workers, friends and family there was rejuvenating. Owen grabbed my hand and wanted to run along with me and I felt such incredible sense of pride from him. I left Foresthill filled with joy. I loaded up on ice, got my supply of Roctane Drink and I pickup up my Master Pacer Jason Hill. Jason quickly picked up on me being a little worried about pushing the last 30 miles harder than planned. We joked a little about getting those extra 2 bonus miles and I quickly settled behind Jason’s bright orange shoes and followed him down the trail. We both dreamed about getting into the river. What a great incentive to get to Rucky Chucky. The sun disappeared as we reached the river and I didn’t really understand why I needed a life jacket to cross the river until I got in and was glad to have it on…the current was stronger that I had anticipated. But all I could think about at that point was to worry for the volunteers in the river that they would get hypothermic standing there for so long. One of them reassured me that they had wetsuits under their shirts and were fine, so I felt much better about it. I could hear Richie on the other side of the river and I just wanted to give him a hug. It was so good to see him, but it was even better to hear that there where only 22 miles to go. I was starting to get tired. Richie convinced me to change into a dry pair of Challenger ATRs and a dry pair of socks. I was afraid to sit down because I was afraid of not being able to get back up, but I didn’t fight it. It felt so good to put a new pair of shoes and socks on. Seeing many familiar faces at Green Gate made me smile more. At this point, I had stopped caring about my time, so I took my watch off and set my heart on reaching Auburn. I was so close, yet so far away.
It quickly went from dusk to dark and I was fixated on Jason’s headlamp. We didn’t talk much after that. I was dealing with discomfort in my knee and focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. Getting to No Hands Bridge sparked my spirit. It was beautiful and the volunteers were so happy to see another runner come through. My friends from my 6am Thursday Breakfast Club were there…Bridget, Matt, Sam, Caitlin and Chris. That meant so much.
Jason said we had a nice lead and that fueled my heart. I could imagine entering the track with my family and my friends awaiting me. For a moment I didn’t wanted it to end and almost was sad to see Robbie Point aid station, but just for a second. We didn’t push the pace anymore and started to take it all in. Richie joined Jason and I for the last mile and told me that Owen was still awake and waiting for me. I started to get emotional when we made the last turn and I could see the track. I could see Owen waving his hands at me to show me the way. I wanted to hug him for a long time.
Once we entered the track I was welcomed again by so many friends. A powerful feeling of satisfaction and pride came over me and the emotions were shared. I will never forget the words of encouragement, congratulations, hugs and smiles from all of you. I will cherish all of them forever.
I am truly grateful for all the wonderful people in my life and there are so many people to thank for making this journey so much more memorable.
Thank you to my co-workers from GU Energy Labs…Lauren, Celia, Julie, Michael, Dan, Pam and all of you back in the Berkley HQ. Your support leading up to this race and the day and night of the race made this race so much more special. We were in it together.
Thank you to my training partners: I am a firm believer that you have to surround yourself with people who inspire you to dream big. Thursday’s Breakfast Club and Tam Tuesday. I love running because of people like you.
Thank you to all the runners who raced Western States before me. I took your words of wisdom to my heart. You inspired us all to embark on this journey
Thank you to the defending champions Stephanie Howe and Rob Krar. You inspired me in 2014 with your races.
Thank you to Ian Sharman for getting me on Mt. Diablo and showing me the importance of vertical distance in preparation for WS. Your confidence in my ability to get this done helped me tremendously.
Thank you to all the competitors in this year’s race. You raised the bar high and we all came out stronger on the other side.
Thank you to my pacer Jason Hill for pacing me all 38 miles and getting me to Auburn in one piece.
Thank you Bridget Duffy for making sure I have balance in my life and for always reminding me to rest and take care of myself so I can do what I love till the day I die.
Richie and Owen….I can’t imagine life without you two. This life journey is so much more fun with you together. You make me a better athlete, better mom and a better human being. We sure make a great team. I love you both to the moon and back.
Tremendous thank you and respect to Craig Thornley, John Trent, John Medinger, Tim Twietmeyer, Gary Towie, Charles Savage, Tia Bodington, Mark Falcone, Diana Fitzpatrick, Karl Hoagland, Mo Livermore, Tony Rossmann, Donna Zea, Denis Zilaff, Robert Weiss, Martin Hoffman, Douglas Latimer, Robert Lind, Shannon Weil and Greg Soderlund. You put on a world-class event and I am very grateful for the opportunity to compete at Western States.
To all the amazing volunteers and medical staff who kept me smiling and who helped me reach my dream. Thank You from the bottom of my heart.
I could have not performed with so much joy without my sponsors: HOKA One One, GU Energy Labs, UltrAspire and Oakley. It is an honor to represent these companies at one of the most prestigious race in the world.
And how about that straw fedora hat? Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. When life gets overwhelming, I bring fun to balance it out. And it just so happens that it is also very functional. It has many holes and it breaths well. I could put ice in it and it protected my face from the bright sun. Since both Rob Krar and Max King have worn them in races, I didn’t think it would be such a big deal, but everyone loved the hat on the course and I got so many smiles and high fives. That energy was priceless and got me through to Auburn.
Thank you for joining me on this incredible 100-mile journey.
Gear on race day:
GU Roctane Drink: I raced 100 miles on this drink and nothing else. One bottle per hour for 19 hours, plus extra ice water, as I needed it. This drink was formulated specifically for grueling events like Western States. One serving of 250 calories with ideal sodium amounts to aid in optimum hydration. In addition this drinks is packed with Branched Chain Amino Acids to prevent muscle breakdown from all the downhill running, Taurine to prevent cardiac contractibility fatigue in ultra endurance events and a little caffeine to keep the central nervous system focused and alert.
HOKA Challenger ATR: My go to trail racing shoe. Light, nimble and well-cushioned shoe that allows my legs to recover quickly from demanding trail races or workouts. Absolutely love this shoe.
Oakley: I love the Radarlock Edge for hard effort training days and races. I feel relaxed when I train with Oakley performance sunglasses and don’t squint or stress my face.
UltraAspire AlphaHydration pack is my go to pack for both training and racing because it is versatile, light and compact.
Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp:Finally the perfect solution for my need to travel light when I run. This headlamp is super compact and designed for versatile terrains.