Monday, July 8, 2013

Western States 100 Race Report (2013)

Finished my first 100 mile race and first WS100 which I was lucky enough to get into on my first try.

I feel like there is so much I'm missing here, so feel free to ask questions to help me remember!

I was behind the recommended pace to finish under 30 hours for most of the first half of the race but I stayed steady and finished 230 out of 277 finishers out of 388 starters on what might I have heard was the 4th hottest WS100 race so far.

Squaw Valley to Robinson Flats (start to 29.7 miles)

 There were hints of light at the 5:00 am start and the beginning of the course (which was a dirt road up the ski area) was lined with lights.  The first aid station was in 3.5 miles and it would be a serious climb.  Recommended pace was to stay faster then a 24 minute pace which I did (17:33, 20:14, 18:24, and 20:03), the peak was about a half mile after the aid station, then it leveled off and started to go do down hill.  Just after the aid station it got really steep (almost hands and knees steep but not quite).  That first big hill had worried me when planning out this race since I have really no experience climbing up 2500' in 4 miles at the start of a 100 mile race which continues with up and down up and down for the rest of the race, so I was glad to have at least survived that.

Ok, 25.7 miles to go on the "new to me" section to get to Robinson Flats.  Next aid station, Lyon Ridge in 7 miles.  The recommended time to get there was by 7:40 am, I showed up at 7:45.   The little amount I was ahead at the escarpment had vanished.  When the course got "easier" my pace didn't pick up right away.  I'm not very good at running on very rocky stuff, in fact I'm pretty bad at it, but no doubt I did what I could.  The last three miles coming into Lyon Ridge aid station were in the 12:xx's so that at least kept me close.

Red Star Ridge maybe?

Similar story with the section between Lyon Ridge and Red Star ridge, I arrived at the next aid station still behind the recommended pace but still well ahead of the cut off.  The weather was still pretty decent.  The low 50's from the start were long gone but it wasn't bad, although it was starting to turn warmer.

From Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon, I averaged a 15:30 pace which was a little bit better for me, but now I was 12 minutes behind the suggested 30 hour pace.  After the aid station, I continued descending into the canyon.  I knew it would be a hot and tough climb out of it but that I could do it.
There was a stream criss-crossing the descent and a much larger one at the bottom.  I would stop and soak my hat and let the water spill over me.  At the bigger water crossing I was up almost to my knees in water which felt great.  Kept on going and began to climb.  The climb seemed to take forever with miles in the 18's and 19's.

Cooling off in Duncan Canyon

One of the BEST moments of the race was when I could first see the Robinson Flat aid station.  There was tape marking the way in and volunteers directing me in.  I knew that once I got here I would at least have the advantage of knowing the rest of the terrain since I had run all of it from Robinson Flat to the end during the training run (minus the actual river crossing).  And even more so, when I saw my family I completely welled up inside with emotion.  They were the biggest support crew there all dressed in bright green shirts cheering for me!!


They later told me I didn't look so good. I know I didn't feel so good either.  I was still 12 minutes behind the suggested pace, but at least I hadn't lost more ground, and from here on out I knew what I was in for as far as the trail goes.

Robinson Flat to Dusty Corners (29.7 to 38 miles)

 Between the next two aid stations I averaged 16:10 and 15:16.  After leaving Robinson Flat I had a fairly short climb of less than a mile, followed by some tough downhill which would give way to a relatively easy run on a fire road.  I also heard one noise I didn't want to hear for the rest of the race.  I could hear three warning blasts from the Robinson Flat aid station.  Starting at 30 minutes from the hard cut off the sound three horn blasts, then two blasts at 20 minutes, and one at 10 minutes as a warning to those who are getting close to the aid station to hurry up.  Fortunately I would not hear this sound again.

During the excitement for seeing my crew and getting onto familiar surroundings I had forgotten two things.  I forgot to switch garmins (as the one I was wearing was only good for another three hours or so) and forgot to grab the muscle milk I was going to drink for protein.  I wasn't planning on seeing them again until Michigan Bluffs at mile 55.  But, one piece of advice I had heard was to not let little problems worry you.  I would just run until the garmin died and then hopefully find someone running a good pace to tag along with and I would just eat more peanuts for the missing protein!

Dusty Corners to Michigan Bluffs (38 to 55 miles)

My crew said I didn't look so good at Robinson Flat (29.7), but looked a bit better at Dusty Corners (mile 38).

I wasn't expecting to see them at Dusty Corners.  It's "only" 8 miles to run from Robinson Flat to Dusty Corner, but I think it is about a 30 mile drive over some pretty tight and twisty dirt roads.  They made it somehow.  It felt like a huge turning point.  I was now only 3 minutes behind the recommended 30 hour pace, I had a fresh garmin, downed a muscle milk and was able to see part of my crew again (they had split in two to get here).
From Dusty Corners to the Last Chance aid station I picked up even a little bit more time.  I was still 3 minutes behind the 30 hour pace, but this meant that I was also over an hour ahead of the absolute cut off time.

  At the Last Chance aid station (mile 43.8) the volunteers said I looked a lot better than many of the people who had come through earlier (but then I left the aid station without my camelback and had to turn back to get it, wasting 2-3 minutes).

At Devils Thumb (47.8) I was in 351st place, and that would be the last point where I was so far back. Heading down towards El Dorado Creek (mile 52.9) I looked across the canyon to the trees and they moved towards me and then back, then towards me again. Ok, don't look at the trees. On the march up to Michigan Bluff (mile 55.7) it felt like something was in my shoe on my left foot, I stopped a couple of times but couldn't find anything (it was the start of a big blister which fortunately didn't shut me down).

Getting a high five from Thomas and some random girl

Michigan Bluffs to Foresthill (55 to 62 miles)

  When I reached the top of Michigan Bluffs I saw my family for the third time. Jamie paced me and we had a blast running through the dark to Foresthill School at mile 62, even through the dreaded Volcano Canyon. All of the light faded a little bit after 9:00 but it the race felt a little easier and I felt like I could relax.  Jamie doesn't run trails very much but she navigated through the dark like a pro and kept up positive conversations the whole way.  I wore a Petzl headlamp and a smaller energizer light around my waist, between the two lights and Jamie running out in front I didn't have any problems seeing.

  As we approached the school at Foresthill, all the kids in my crew ran alongside me and Thomas said "Dad, were running with you so you don't hallucinate" or something like that.
Here is the "pacer hand off" where Jamie (2nd from the right) , passes pacer duty over to my brother Tim (far left), who will run with me for the next 16 miles to the Rucky Chucky River Crossing.

Foresthill to Rucky Chucky (62 to 78 miles)

  Switched pacers to my brother Tim at mile 62 who ran with me until we reached the river crossing at Rucky Chucky. We ran past aliens (decorations), Christmas decorations, and a guy throwing up.  We held a pretty steady pace.  This section was a lot easier to run in the day especially when it was on a day starting fresh.  However, for already having done 62 miles, it went pretty well.

  I'm trying to think what else I can remember about this section.  There was a lot of dust.  Tim did a great job keeping moving and the hills that I remember from the training run seemed bigger when running them in the dark.  We didn't see the same spectacular scenery but could tell it was there.  The moon came out but mostly we just enjoyed the darkness and the company of the other runners.

  At one of the aid stations I grabbed what I thought was a cup of Mountain Dew but it was really chicken broth - not a nice surprise.  However, Tim knew it was chicken broth and thought it was the best thing all night.  Time sort of stood still (but not really, I knew the clock was ticking).

    Jim and Jamie met us at the river and Jim crossed with me, hand over hand holding onto the cable as the volunteers told us exactly where to step.

Rucky Chucky at 3:00 am with Jim

Rucky Chucky to Finish (78 to 100.2 miles)

 After we crossed the river, we sat down and put on fresh socks.  I couldn't have imagined how good that would feel.  It still felt like something was in my shoe but at least the socks felt fresh now (and probably a good thing I didn't see the size of the blister).

 Jim ran me in the rest of the way. As it got light out again it didn't feel like I had just run for 24 hours but had entered into a new race.  I felt good coming into the Auburn Lake Trails aid station (mile 85.2) and had just picked up the pace, but coming out of the aid station my legs felt sore and heavy for the first time. It scared me and I decided I shouldn't push so hard, just try and hang on.

   We saw Tim and Jamie at No Hands Bridge (96.8), with Jamie ready to pace me but Jim was still going strong so decided to keep going to the end. The temperature climbed into the 90's as we climbed the last big ascent of the course. After passing Robie point people were congratulating me which made me nervous as I wasn't done yet. I started to push a little bit early then backed off until I was close to the track. The whole crew was there waiting for me as I took off into a sprint around the track to the finish line.

Wow, what an amazing adventure.   Predawn to morning, to afternoon, to evening, to night and back to morning again.  My legs held up, my stomach held up and my kidneys held up.  I remembered to have fun.  I had a ton of help along the way.  Somehow it all came together and I earned my finisher's belt buckle.

Miscellaneous Details

What did I eat? -
  • lots and lots of fresh fruit
  • peanuts
  • Payday bars
  • Potatoes dipped in salt
  • Coke
  • Mountain Dew
  • Gels (PowerBar, Gu, Roctane)
Drink - water, Gu Brew, some Accelerade at the start

Shoes - Brooks Cascadia

Hydration - Camelback Rogue and one Nathan 22 oz handheld bottle

Socks - Thorlo (first 78 miles) , Belega (last 22)

Apparel - Jacksonville Marathon short sleeve shirt, Race Ready shorts, Mountain Hardware Cool Zero white hat

Watch - Garmin 205 which I swapped out twice

Advice I took - (some of it was from these guys, about 40 WS100 wins between them I think)

  • bring a ziploc bag to put food in so I could eat and walk past aid station
  • wear lots of white
  • stay hydrated
  • stay electrolyted
  • keep moving
  • save the caffeine boost for the evening
  • have fun


I had some big motivations for wanting to finish the race such as this maybe being a once in a lifetime opportunity, that it was my only chance to finish my first 100 mile race first try, and there were lots of people wishing me luck and tracking me.  But I also had some smaller simple motivations like looking forward to sitting down with my feet in a cold stream and a beer in my hand

And another one was being able to put the 100.2 sticker on my bumper that I bought the day before the race.


  1. Wow, just sitting here reading your posts, my heart beating fast at the thoughts of such a journey and so inspired...thinking "what a moment in life, what an accomplishment"...but accomplishment doesn't hear come close enough to describing it. You have been so steady as I watched you train, so beyond inspirational and so strong. I smile as I know what that post marathon mimosa tastes like (and that's only 26.2miles) so can only imagine what that beer was like:-) Thanks for sharing and cheers to you my friend. Keep sharing your story as it's one to be proud of and then some!!!

  2. Great blog! Wish I could have been there to experience it live and run a section with you! I am so happy you had so much support from family and Jamie! What an incredible experience. It sounds like you really nailed the pace strategy! For a moment, I could almost envision the hidden scenery in the dark. Looking forward to hearing more stories!

  3. Wow. Mark, what can I say? Awesome achievement - loved reading this report, loved seeing the pictures. So happy you had so much great support with you. And we're so proud of you!

  4. This is so awesome! Ben and I were tracking your progress all weekend long and sending motivations from Florida. (It went something like - "He's gonna get that belt buckle" "Gooo!" You are such an inspiration, definitely something to be proud of! So the real question is - what are you going to do with all these belt buckles?!