Western States 2006

What a race!  This was my first time at Western States and my first long run since cancer.  So both milestones in one venue.  I saw so many HURT runners and friends in Squaw Valley, and they were all so interested in my recovery.  That was so cool.  I headed to WS to pace my best friend Erik on his second 100 miler.  His first saw some issues around mile 75, so he trained smarter for this race.

The temperature was already climbing and planned to be over 110 in the valleys.  We went over his game plan carefully, pace at every aid station and where I would pick him up. Of course every plan needs to be flexible, and I worked on options.  I felt strong so I was ready to be his handler with his wife all day from 3am to whenever, and then pace from whenever to the finish.  Our original plan was to pick him up at Rucky Chucky Far, mile 78, and bring him in.

Well, the heat stepped up, and Erik was falling behind the 24 hour mark.  This years course was closer to the original with the first 50K brutual.  I ran the first 3.5 miles to the summit and trailhead, across the snow fields and looked out at the valleys to come.  Wow, the runners were in trouble.  About 80 runners dropped at Robinson Flat, the 50K aid station.  Erik was 1.5 hours behind our plan so I started eating more fatty food to be ready for a long night.  I knew he needed help at the 100K aid station, and not Rucky Chucky.

I met him at every aid station along the trail that I could and at Michigan Bluff, mile 56, I ran and talked to him.  He was pulling back on calories due to his stomach, holding in the spew and just trying to manage the mind.  Still moving, and strong, but hurting from the heat.  I quickly grabbed my gear, a Red Bull and lights ready for a long, long night.

At Foresthill School, 100K, I brought him in and talked about the new plan. He felt better so we took off smartly jogging to Peachstone.  As the night descended, Erik’s left knee did as well.  Time for Mr. Duct Tape!  We enjoyed the neon signs in the middle of the forest at the aid station.  Such a treat similar to Matt Stevens disco party!

We quickly made our way through the aid station, and pushed on to Rucky Chucky.  This was a long push.  On the far side of the river crossing (by boat) I saw red hair.  That had to be Kathy D’Onofrio.  She was in good spirits but having problems with her ankle.  Not the same as HURT.

We pushed through the early morning, now 1:30AM, and over to Green Gate.  I asked Erik to become a walking zombie and forget the pain.  I called out 30 minute eat and electrolyte times, held our pace and made it through to sunrise.  At Brown’s Bar the place was rockin!  We took a brief stop, got some soup, more duct tape for both knees and headed out for the last 10 miles.

The push to HWY 49 was tough since both knees were not happy.  I wanted to get out of the valley before the sunrise, given my cancer crap.  So, we pushed on, I added more sunblock and we made it to the last aid station.  At this point, let’s just get the final 6.5 miles in!

As we neeared the finish, Erik saw his training partner who droped earlier.  Very emotional moment for both.  Luis Escobar stopped by for some laughter and report on the finishers ordeal with collapsing and such.  We crossed the white bridge before the track and Erik was ready to see his lovely wife.  Around the track, to the finish and tears at 28:31!  Not bad for his first WS.

Me, I was swept off the track to the motel, shower and on the road to make my return flight all within a few minutes.  I hard more problems staying awake driving to SFO from Auburn than pacing:)  Also, this was very special as a milestone in my comeback!!

Paul Sibley