Anyone that knows me well, has heard me talk about Western States. I first heard about this race in 2014, and since then it has been a unrelenting focus of mine. I planned and prepared to enter the race in 2017, and despite low odds of a first time entry, I got in. My training block for Western began back in November 2016, with my coach Alicia Vargo calling the shots. I had only booked in one race prior to Western in 2017 (Transvulcania), and I was focused in a way I had never been before. As weeks led to months, my mileage increased and workouts got harder. I arrived in Spain to race Transvulcania in May, healthy, and in the best physical condition I had ever been in, after a year of consistently working with Alicia. Whilst Transvulcania was a strong performance for me, It didn’t quite hit my expectations for time and overall position. I walked away with a lot of confidence, healthy, yet a little disappointed with my result. I will come back to avenge that at some point. It had folded perfectly into my training, and after a final period of training in Chamonix to cap off my buildup, I was flying out to the U.S. to race. On the way to Tahoe, I stopped by Auburn and met one of my pacers, Aidan. Aidan is the son of Matt Keyes, a 10 times finisher of Western, who Aidan had been pacing since he was 13 years old. Whilst young, Aidan was touted as one of the most experienced pacers in the area. Matt, Aidan and I did a shakeout run, covering the final miles of the course, from No Hands Bridge, to the finish on the track at Placer High School. It was such a surreal experience, as a dream and goal which had seen an unyielding focus for years, was finally within reach. Over the next few days, the remainder of my crew would arrive. The official reports showed that there was a lot of snow in the High Country, and that it was going to be tough running for the first 15 or so miles. To couple with that, it was being reported as being one of the hottest years in recent history. Expectations for fast times were being adjusted, as runners would face large portions of snow and above average, baking hot temperatures. Western States 2017, the Fire and Ice year, was about to begin.
I was running a lot of the first climb, and had to be mindful to chill, and not get to carried away. I ran just behind Kaci for a little bit, before dialling it back. I could see the front pack (led by Walmsley) moving that little bit faster, but still in close contact at this stage. I felt calm and collected, just mixing power hiking and running and focusing on consistency. As we got higher, the sun started to come up, and that iconic Tahoe sunrise began. I made a conscious point to admire the view. Before long, the climb was over and we were into the snow. Miles of snow, which we just ran across. It was slow going, but we were still running. The high country was a “shit show” (as stated by both Amanda Basham during the race and by Jamie Coury as he filmed). It was really slow going, as a pack of runners that included Amanda Basham (4th 2016 Western States), made our way across the snow as best we could. The pink flags marking the course were hard to see despite running in one of the front packs, and the conditions were pretty gnarly already. People were slipping and falling over, bottles were going flying, and there were ice bridges and melted out sections that would cause some bigger falls for many. The melted slush would then turn into mini waterfalls that we would have to run up along the ‘trail’, before hitting sections of mud that would be knee deep. The first 15 miles were a mixture of deep snow, slush, deep mud, and just cumbersome mixes of the latter. It was taxing to move, very slow, and just generally really challenging to run with any kind of consistency. Some were managing it better than others, but everyone had cold and wet feet, and were covered with mud. A danger this early in a race. Post race, it was noted that there was an unusually high amount of runners that did not make the cut-offs at the first two aid stations (miles 10 and 15), due to the snow. I shared some of these miles with runners that I admired and respected. Clare Gallagher, Meghan Laws (nee Abrogast, and 10+ times finisher), my friend Fiona Hayvice from New Zealand (who would go on to steamroll the course and take fifth female) plus others. I would run with them for a bit, then let them go. My plan was to stay really conservative in the high country and it was a challenge. The un-rhythmic nature of the snowy conditions was definitely a factor, but I managed. The high country was gorgeous, and I was feeling great. The day was already warming up, and as I began the descent down towards Duncan Canyon (mile 24), the stark contrast to the snow was evident. It was really hot. I had gotten here relatively unscathed, minus a fall that has busted up my knees and cut my arm. I hammered down into the aid station, to the raucous cheers of the crowd, and my crew. I saw and heard them immediately, gave Giuls a hug, and then it was business. I had my bottles refilled, as they filled my bandanna (for my neck) and hat with ice. I quickly grabbed and ate some watermelon, before saying goodbye and walking out. About 30 seconds after leaving, I threw-up the watermelon. Not major, but clearly that wasn’t what I wanted. I was having zero stomach or nutrition issues besides that, so I kept moving. I completely submerged in Duncan Creek at the bottom of the Canyon, before starting the climb out, feeling refreshed.
Leaving Robinson Flat (mile 30), my body had rejected (I threw it up) the recently consumed Ginger Ale, so I just drank more water and Tailwind. After walking for a few hundred metres feeling lacklustre, I began to find a groove and ran pretty hard. I cruised down a fire road, rolling into Millers Defeat Aid station (mile 34). I briefly spoke to Bob Crowley, a Western States veteran with multiple hundred miler finishes, who had been a big help to me prior to the race. I left quickly, feeling really good. Minus that minor rough patch right after Robinson, I had felt smooth all day. I ran all the way to Dusty Corners at mile 38, working together with a runner from San Francisco. As we blasted into Dusty Corners, we would part ways. My crew were at Dusty and as always, it was great to see them. They were pleased to see me looking strong, and in good spirits. The hardest part of the course was approaching and it was baking hot by this stage. Temperatures had risen past 40 Celsius, and would continue to rise. Matt Keyes was at this aid station, and came to give me a pre-canyons pep-talk. I had three canyons to get through, and Matt explained them to me in the most concise and simple way. First, the steepest (Deadwood); Second, the longest (El Dorado); Finally, the most exposed (Volcano). He told me to run past the river (and not go down to cool off) after Deadwood Canyon, as there was a great spot to soak on the trail just 50m onwards after the bridge. His advice was simple, and it stuck with me. With only a minute or two spent at that aid station, I said goodbye again to my crew, knowing that I had just shy of 20 tough miles to get through before I would see them again. I had to face the Canyons. The brutally hot, and feared American River Canyons. Full of horror stories, the Canyons were the section I was most worried about.
Much like the final descent of Transvulcania my first time racing, I was expecting the first canyon to come quickly. It didn’t. When it did, it was noticeable. It was steep, and it was hot. I was passed by several runners, all happy to hammer down. Like many occasions prior, It took a lot of effort to hold back, and just let them go. In the back of my mind, I was waiting for the pain. For that classic Canyon’s brutality I had heard about. It didn’t come. I ran over a small bridge, and kept going. Easy and steady. I was roasting, and looking forward to the pending submersion. I got lower and lower, and closer to the river. It got hotter and hotter. Finally, the Swinging Bridge crossing, and the famous Devil’s Thumb climb. The symbology of the name is real. Devil’s is notorious for being the worst part of the race for many a runner. I recalled training runs in Chamonix, where I’d be going up a big climb, and would desperately want to slow down. To walk. To ease up. And at every moment, I just pretended I was climbing up out of the Thumb. Visualising the scorching heat, feeling like garbage, having no energy, and yet having to keep climbing. I had envisioned this being the worst I had ever felt in a race. I had expected to enter a dark place, and fight my way out. So with that in mind, I crossed the river, found the pool to soak in that Matt had told me about (saving me a few minutes). And then I climbed. Power hiking hard, and steady. I was hot, but it was manageable. I had energy, and I was climbing pretty hard. I was moving well. It was tough, but it wasn’t that bad. I just kept moving, overtaking runner after runner. Runners that had passed me early on in my descent. Runners slowing down. Runners looking tired. My legs were tired. I was working hard, but making good ground. I came up on two runners, one who mistakenly thought I was Chris Mocko (definitely a highlight for me). I passed them, still feeling decent. I was coming to the top of the climb, and passed a runner who had passed me close to four miles back. He was cooked. I took a few minutes to sit at Devil’s Thumb aid station, to eat a popsicle and refuel. I drank a lot of coke, re-filled my bottles, and then was out.
Next up, was El Dorado. The longest. Not as steep, but a good half mile or more longer coming up. Another brutal climb. I got to the bottom, where the El Dorado aid station was. I filled up and was straight out. Like with the Thumb, I felt strong climbing here. The heat was relentless, but manageable. I just kept working and overtaking runners. As I kept climbing, I knew that I would see my crew soon, so I just kept pushing. It began to flatten out, and I began to run. I picked up the pace, as I began to pass spectators and officials. I ran past the checkpoint, past crowds of cheering people, and kept getting faster. I flew off the trail and took a sharp right into the official aid station (mile 55). I saw my friend Tiffany (who was crewing her husband Stephen), and then saw my crew. I took a seat, changed socks, and had a cold brew Peets chocolate iced coffee (a treat I had been waiting for). My crew told me that everyone coming through looked like absolute crap. The canyons were really hammering people. They were pleasantly surprised that I looked so good, and had clearly been worried. I left and ended up running most of the way to Volcano, down into the Canyon, and back out. It wasn’t as hot as I had expected (being the most exposed of all the canyons), but I was sure that was due to me coming through a bit later in the day (due to the slower earlier miles). I climbed out and hit the famous Bath Road. I was power-hiking up the road, but then started to run. As I got closer to Foresthill (mile 62), I just got faster. After a mile or so, it flattened out and I was moving even faster. My feet were killing me, but I was feeling great overall. As I got closer, Aidan came into view and looked surprised to see me running so fast. Seeing him, my adrenalin spiked and I started hammering down the road. We chatted for a bit, with me ecstatically stating I felt awesome. I saw the aid station up ahead, and just hit the gas. Aidan had dropped off a little bit and it felt awesome to stretch out my legs and hammer hard into the aid station. I got a boisterous cheer from the official announcer, and the crowd loved it. I had to re-fuel at the aid station first, before heading up about 100m to where my crew was. Foresthill is the largest aid station on the course, so crews stretch down the street. We changed bottles, I grabbed my headlamp (I wouldn’t see them for close to 20 miles so needed to prepare for the night), and gave some final instructions for when I would see them next. With Aidan ready to roll, we headed off at a quick pace. I was so stoked to have gotten to Foresthill with legs, and was happy to have some company. My diligence thus far had paid off, and I had gotten through 60 miles with no major issues. I was on target for a sub 24 hour finish, and was ready to turn up the intensity a bit more, as was my plan.
Aidan and I ran pretty hard onto Cal St (technically the California Trail). Aidan knew the last 40 miles really well, and it was the most run-able of the entire race. Fast and mostly steady downhill, which is only good if you are in a position to run hard. We ran steadily for a good chunk, right up to the Cal 1 (Dardanelles) aid station. After drinking some coke, ice and bottle re-fills, we kept going. We ran most of the next section, but power-hiked hills. Aidan and I chatted about a bunch of things, and his experience at this race showed. He was invaluable and I really enjoyed the miles with him. We passed Cal 2 (Peachstone, mile 70), and were still moving pretty well. I still had energy, but could feel the days effort in my legs. The cumulative efforts of a tough race. My left shin was a little painful, and would flare up intermittently. Both my legs felt like they were overheating and in my words ‘on fire’. It wasn’t muscle pain, or anything serious. I was just hot, and feeling the effects of being 70 miles into a 100 mile race, in furnace like heat. So we cracked on, consistently moving forward, power hiking and then running again. We passed a few runners, and were getting into the night now. Headlamps were on, and it was a completely different experience. Despite it being night, it was still really hot. I had stopped putting ice in my bandana and hat, but both bottles were still getting filled with ice. As we came into Cal 3 (Fords Bar), I took a seat to give my legs a break and try to get some food down. I had plenty of energy, and still had not felt I was lacking in calories. Despite that, I knew I hadn’t ever run just on Tailwind for this long before (or run this far period), so was erring on the side of caution. Whilst my angry shin and fiery legs took a slight reprise, I had some broth and more coke. I was determined to get going, conscious I was starting to feel my body struggle a bit more. We kept running and power-hiking, and I was finding my shin getting increasingly sore. It was becoming more and more painful, and lingering for longer. My legs were still baking hot, but thankfully a creek crossing allowed me to soak and alleviate that. I felt better, and we pushed on. We were following the river around, as we pushed towards the Rucky Chucky River crossing. Aidan was doing a great job as he read my mood, chatting when appropriate, and letting me work in silence when I needed to. He was dialled in with the course, giving me updates of key points at all the right times. As we neared the river, he shared that this run pacing me, would be his longest to date. I laughed as I said that this was also my longest to date. We kept working, and I was doing my best to stay positive and not get frustrated when I would power hike parts that I thought I should be running. We rolled into the river crossing, and I generally felt good. My energy levels were fine, my stomach was fine and I was going to lie in the river and cool off. My shin was pretty painful by now, and every step was hurting. I was still ready to push, and knew that I would have Esther to pace me the final 20 miles. I saw AJW at the Rucky Chucky aid station (mile 78), and he told me that I was looking really good, which was a massive compliment and confidence boost. I asked about the front of the field, and he told me Ryan Sandes had won, and that the women’s race was still in play. I said I’d see him in Auburn, jumped into the river for my final soak, and then donned my life jacket and got the boat across. Aidan and I hiked up to Green Gate (mile 79), where my crew was waiting. I put on my singlet, changed my socks again, and downed my second co brew. Aidan was briefing Esther on what to expect with me, and then we were off for the final 20 miles.
I started running once we had gotten out of the aid station, and wanted to see what I could do going forward. My shin was becoming worse (and starting to affect how I ran) and my legs were generally just tired and beat up. I felt pretty good energy wise, and my nutrition hadn’t let me down thus far. Mentally I was in a good place, and aside from a few very brief moments across the day, had stayed that way. I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to push as hard, and that I was walking sections I thought I should have been running (both due to fatigue and my shin). It was still constant forward motion, and I was still incredibly thankful to be here, and to be having these experiences. It was time to bring it home, so I ran. I had quite a strong section here, and felt moments of flow where I just ran, and didn’t care about the pain or fatigue or anything else. It was almost a game at times, as I just wanted to see how far I could run without stopping. I’d occasionally power hike a hill, but as I had passed a few people, wanted to make a statement and not get passed myself. Esther was doing a great job, gently reminding me of how far I had come and that I had run so well, and to just keep moving forward. This was probably the strongest section for me in the final 20 miles, and as the miles ticked over, I just gritted my teeth and kept pushing. My watch died somewhere at this point, so I only had Esther’s watch to gauge the distance. I was determined to run all the way to the next aid station, and other than a few times when we power-hiked, I just pushed on. At one point as we closed on the aid station, I heard Esther drop off slightly. I’d been pushing really hard, and whilst it seemed she had momentarily dropped off, I knew she’d catch me quickly. I just gave it everything I had to keep moving, and after what felt like an eternity, Esther and I dropped down a switchback into the glorious sounds of a generator, and saw the lights of the aid station, Auburn Lake Trails (mile 85). I drank some coke, and took a seat whilst I attempted to have some more broth. When that was done, bottles were filled, and we were off. As I walked out of that aid station, I immediately threw up the broth. I apologised to Esther, drank some water, before we continued on. I was feeling fatigued again, and my left shin was really unhappy. We kept moving, but that strength from the previous section had faded, and it was now a mix of power hiking, and running. I’d checked the time and was doing the math, realising that a sub 24 hour finish was slowly becoming less and less of a reality. I remember words of wisdom that had been shared the days prior, in that it was a privilege just to finish. I was at peace with my race thus far, despite the minor frustrations that had come up. We were running in some beautiful trails, and I really noted how I needed to run these in daylight, at some point. We rolled into the raucous mile 90 aid station at Quarry Road (hosted by Hal Koerner’s Rogue Valley Runners), where the man himself was there. I’ve a huge amount of respect for Hal, and he remains one of my favourite runners. A multiple winner of Western States, plus wins at many other prestigious races including Hardrock 100, Hal is one of the nicest guys in the sport. He changed my bottles, and gave both Esther and I a detailed description of what was to come. We joked about the famous Walmsley left, and he assured me it would be very clear where we needed to turn. He high fived me and told me to get after it. I was stoked to have seen Hal, and was once again reminded how amazing our sport was. Ann Trason (the greatest runner of all time in my opinion, and 14 times winner of Western States) was at Dusty Corners changing people’s bottles, wiping people down with cold water, and just doing anything she could to help. Dave Mackey (who after an accident in 2015 chose to amputate his leg) was working medical at Devil’s Thumb. The people in this sport are a large reason of why I’ve fallen in love with it. From the elite runners down to the humble aid station volunteers, the ultra community is one of a kind. It was inspiring. I couldn’t run without a really sharp pain in my shin, and whenever I caught a toe, my shin would be in absolute agony. Each time that happened, I would cuss and drop far too many f-bombs. Esther was really patient and understanding and I felt bad for those moments when the pain got the better of me. I didn’t want it to be an excuse, or a reason to be negative, so I just did the best I could. I swore when I needed to release those emotions, took a breath, and then just kept going. I had slowed down (which would have happened in any case), and I relished the point where we hit the Walmsley left, and began the climb which would take us up over Highway 49, and to the Pointed Rocks aid station. This was one of the longer climbs in the last 40 miles, and we eventually popped up onto the road, crossed, and then ran pretty steadily the mile or so into the Pointed Rocks aid station at mile 94, the final place I’d see my crew.
I had done the math and knew that with my shin, and the fact that we had a final big climb into Auburn, I would not be running to a sub 24 hour finish, and earning the coveted silver belt buckle. I was ok with that. I was happy to be here, to have ran a strong and smart race, and be just a few short miles away from my debut 100 mile finish. I spent almost no time there at the aid station, and told my crew I’d see them in Auburn. We said goodbye and as we walked out, I told Esther that we were not getting sub 24, and that I was at peace with that. She smiled and once again told me how proud she was of me and how I had run today. I told her my shin was pretty bad, and I wasn’t going to go crazy and hammer the finish to just come short of 24 hours anyway. We enjoyed the final few miles as we made our way down to the famous No Hands Bridge aid station, where all the volunteers were going nuts with excitement, seeing us come down. We headed straight across to began the final climb up to Auburn. I laughed about how I had run this with ease and felt so confident running the climbs a few days earlier. I’d known at the time the end would be totally different experience but I just had to laugh in the moment. As we made our way along, I paused and pointed at the beautiful sunrise that was beginning. There are so many moments I cherish and loved from Western States. Moments that embody why I do seemingly crazy things like this. Sharing that sunset a few short miles from the hardest finish of my life, was one of them. Esther and I just smiled, appreciating the beauty of the moment, and then we made our final surge. We hiked all the way up to Robie Point, not stopping at all, thanking volunteers, as we determinedly hunted that elusive sign signifying the final mile. I was full of emotion, replaying the journey of the last 24 hours. We passed sleeping party-goers, and as we neared the top of Auburn, I began to run. We passed people cheering, and then made that final turn which would lead us down the road to the track. My shin hurt so much, but I was too emotional to care. Relief, joy and adrenaline washed over me, and I smiled as I ran onto the track. I heard a beautiful, loud, and proud cheer cut through the cheers from the far side of the track. It was Kaci Lickteig, (the 2016 winner, a runner I’ve admired for years and just a beautiful human), who had battled to finish here today. She smiled despite how wrecked she was, and I surged onto the track with all intentions of hammering to the finish. I could hear AJW announcing me in, reading off my stats, where I was from, who was in my crew, and how I was running around the track seconds away from my debut 100 mile finish in the ‘grand daddy’ of them all. I slowed a touch for the final 50 meters, high fiving those by the track, and just soaking up this moment that I had obsessively dreamed about and relentlessly pursued since the end of 2014. In those brief moments, I knew that every sacrifice I had made was worth it. The missed times with friends; the early starts; the grind of working full-time and trying to train at a high level; The relationships that hadn’t worked out; The money invested in what many saw as a meaningless pursuit; The constant barrage of questions and judgement for pursing such an endevaour; The judgement when I said no to friends, work colleagues, and put my training first; The days of feeling tired from my training; The doubts of my ability and my training; The times when I felt stretched so thin that I wondered how I would handle anything; The times when I felt so alone, in pursuit of a dream and goal that only a handful truly understood; The times I realised people and friends stopped inviting me out because they just assumed I’d turn them down.
It was all worth it for that single moment, crossing that finish line (and all the moments of that day). 24:48:10
To achieve greatness (in self and in life), you need to make sacrifices. The process of training and racing a hundred miler is unlike anything else in the world. As the great Ann Trason says, it is “life in a day”. Whilst there has been so much sacrifice, there have been far greater gains. That moment I crossed that glorious finish line, was a culmination of the many incredible moments and experiences I’ve had since making this choice in 2014. All those times I ‘missed out’, I would get back tenfold in other ways. New and rewarding friendships, priceless experiences, and incredibly opportunities to travel and meet empowering and inspiring people. The privilege to be involved in a community that represents the best example of humanity. Kind people. Strong people. Selfless people. From the elite runners, to those that go to the deepest of wells to make the final cut-off. That journey is continuous, and as I hugged and thanked Esther, saw Alison, Aidan, and the amazing Giuls, I was filled with the upmost joy and emotion. I had finished Western States in 24 hours, 48 minutes. By far the most satisfying finish of my life, and the hardest fought. I am incredibly thankful for every experience that had gotten me there. And I know I’ll be back.
I couldn’t have completed Western States without some amazing people.
Bob Crowley – Thank you for your help and friendship on the day, and for going out of your way to find me one of Auburn’s finest pacers in Aidan. I look forward to running with you again soon
Matt Keyes – Thanks for welcoming me and introducing me to the Western States Course and your invaluable help on the day. Your time with me at Dusty Corners was small but significant.
Alison Hernandez – Thank you for the support leading up to this, and for all your help with the planning and logistics. You took away so many of my worries leading up to the race, with your experience and knowledge of the race day mechanics.
Aidan – Chloe Romero calls you the “best pacer ever”. I’d have to agree. You have paced since you were 13 and your experience shows. You were a diamond and I appreciate everything you did, it was a pleasure to share those miles with you.
Tailwind UK – Mike (and Andy in Wales), you have supported me and made sure that Tailwind UK provides me with everything I need race after race. Once again, Tailwind was the reliable constant and I didn’t have to worry about fuelling all day. It’s been two years since I started using Tailwind, and it has handled every test I’ve thrown at it. Thank you for all your support time and time again.
Esther – You’re such a wonderful friend, and were just a positive force the entire weekend. You were so selfless in making sure I was looked after even before the race started. As my pacer, I was honoured to have you take me the final 20 miles. I will always treasure our time together and anytime you need crew, or a pacer, you have my number.
Giuls – I can’t thank you enough. You have and remain one of my closest friends, and have infallibly supported my ultra running, and particularly my drive to run Western. You’ve always believed in me, and always done everything you can to feed that burning desire to compete. You were incredibly selfless from start to finish. You drove hundreds of miles to see me only briefly on race day, and make sure I was looked after every time. You were running on fumes by the end of it, and still made sure I was ok. After a weekend of no sleep, countless hours and miles driving on poor roads, and a red eye flight, you went to work on Monday morning whilst I was sleeping in your apartment. You got me ice-cream, and even put Milo on top for me (only Aussies will get the significance of this). The list goes on. I owe you coffee, parmesan and jungle curries for the rest of your life, and will forever be in your debt for everything you did to get me across that line. I cannot thank you enough.
Sally McRae – If it wasn’t for you (and some help from Billy Yang and Ethan Newberry), I’d have never been put on this trajectory. Your kindness and willingness to help me back in 2014 was crucial in building my love for the sport, and for this race. I am so grateful that you have continued to fuel my fire and passion for mountain running in general, and that we have developed a friendship over the years. You planted the seed so long ago, and it has given me so much in that time.
Helen Russell-Clark – You are such a wonderful friend, but have been my favourite (and in my opinion the BEST) yoga teacher. You are a huge supporter of what I do, and you push me every class. You help me build a stronger and more resilient body, but also ensure I do the work to rest and allow my body to recover as appropriate. You play a key role in helping me find balance. What I’ve taken away from your classes, has been vast, and for much of it, it directly translates into my running. Thank you!
Alicia Vargo – My brilliant coach, mentor and friend. Thank You. For everything. I owe so much to you, and you have been such an asset to me as a runner and a person. Thank you for kindness, friendship and always insightful advice. I look forward to our next adventure!
Rebecca Root (Balanced Osteopathy aka the Elbow Queen) – For the regular deep tissue massage, osteopathy and generally just digging your elbows in to my body to clear out the junk that comes with being an ultra-runner! Thanks for keeping me healthy year round.
To all the other people that have supported me, ran with me, given me advice, encouraged me, and had an impact great or small, thank you. There is to many to thank, and I am sure that many of you may not have realised how a simple message or comment helped me out.
I also must thank Mace, the company I work for. Steve and Valli, thank you both for working together to allow me to spend as much time as I do training and travelling. This race in particular, would not have been anywhere near as successful without your support and trust that I could work remotely from Europe and America, leading up to the race. Thank you for recognising how important this is to me
Western States has 369 runners start. For that to happen, there are countless hours planning, preparing and executing. There are thousands of people who are involved in pre, during and post race, in all manners and capacities. The volunteers on the day, were incredible. The medical staff, organisers, aid station captains, and the thousands of others who play their part, do not receive enough thanks. You never will. As is the nature of this race, it is a community of selfless people that come together to create something special. Whether it is one minute or the decades of service, I would not have been able to cross that line without you. Since 1974, Western States has been debatably the most prestigious and competitive hundred miler in the world. There are only a small number of races (of any distance) that compare to the magnitude and scale of Western States. Thank you to every single person that has shaped this race from that moment Gordy Ainsleigh’s horse went lame.
Epilogue: My shin was incredibly sore and swollen days post Western. On returning to London, it was initially diagnosed as a stress fracture, before a orthopaedic surgeon and a MRI scan revealed only a large stress reaction. I did no training of any sort for two weeks and then a week of light cross training before getting confirmation of the injury. I was cleared to start running easily on week four. I made the decision to withdraw from CCC (race day Sept 1st) so I would not have any pressure about timeframes or recovery. This was done before I got the MRI confirmation, and whilst I’ve returned to running much sooner, it meant I wouldn’t become a statistic like so many, who push a faster return to normal volume, and end up having far worse injuries and substantially more time off.
In review of my race, I am incredibly proud and thankful for my finish. For my 100 mile debut to be a race the calibre of Western, and on one of the toughest years in history, I ran a well executed race and looked after myself diligently. I loved the race, my experience, and the 100 mile distance. Post race, I was haunted by my shin, doubting how bad it actually was during the race. I felt I should have run harder, and that a sore shin should not have slowed me down. Part of me was relieved to be injured, as that provided some form of validation as to the final miles of my race, where the pain became a real issue. I am far from done at Western, and have lots of areas to improve on and work on, for when I return. I learnt a huge amount about myself though this experience, and all those lessons will be reviewed and implemented for future races (and for life). I loved the 100 mile distance, and look forward to running many more. Whilst this was a huge milestone for me, I am a runner, an athlete, and a multi-faceted human, who will not be defined by this single race alone. I have much more to give.
For some context of my race report, and other views on the conditions and race, the below is a good recount. Jamil’s video does a great job capturing the course, especially the “shit show” at the start. Western States 2017 was officially ranked the fourth hardest on record.
http://www.wser.org/geeks-only/ (scroll down to ranking years by difficulty)
Singlet/Shorts – Nike. The new Nike trail shorts had multiple pockets, which were great.
Shoes -Nike Kiger 4’s. I only used one pair, and despite the snow, multiple water crossings etc,I had zero blisters, no black toe nails and absolutely zero issues with my feet
Socks – Nike cushion quarter socks, 3 pairs.
Waistbelt – Ultimate Direction Jurek waistbelt. Had a few minor issues with this, so not sure If I would wear it again.
Tailwind nutrition all day long. This is the longest I have run on Tailwind, both in distance and time on feet. Despite the brutal conditions, it worked all day long with zero problems. Green tea and Berry were the only flavours I used, and 100% success. An unbeatable product, and one which has yet to even falter yet alone fail me in a race.
2 x Peets Cold Brew Choc Iced Coffee
Iced water, coke and a few bits of fruit and broth at aid stations. I wasn’t able to take down much fruit this race, aside from grapes that were the only things that stayed down.