2018 Western States 100 Q&A/Race Report

I was struggling to write a race report for Western States 100, because I just have some many stories and memories that it was basically be a jumbled mess. So, I decided to do a Western States Q & A as my race report. I think y’all will enjoy this. Grab a beverage, sit back, and enjoy.

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Foooood @David Silverander

Neal – Was it everything you expected it to be?

Western States 100  is a magical race — I’m not exactly sure what I expected it to be, but it was a great experience. The race was awesome, but the whole build up to it really made the experience.

Brandon—Did anything go wrong in the race and what did you do to correct it? Also, how did you train for the elevation, especially the decent, in Ottawa.

The race went almost flawless. I really didn’t have anything go wrong, I just needed a few more things to go better. I was having some stomach issues around mile 65, but nothing that some ginger ale and ginger chews couldn’t fix. Training for elevation and downhills in Ottawa is a challenge. Training for the climbing was less of a challenge — I do this leg matrix daily, and do some treadmill climbing. For the downhill, I do quite a bit of speed work, and that helps get some of the downhill speed. Also, I go up to Wisconsin and do a lot of stuff on the Ice Age Trail.

Anthony — Could you have gone faster? How were your pacers? 😉

I think I could have picked up a few minutes here and there. The one area I think I could have been better on was getting out of the Canyons quicker. I think getting out of the heat/climbs a little quicker would have saved quite a bit of time. All three of my pacers, Anthony, Jeff, and Bo were great. I could not have asked for a better group.

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Most of the crew 🙂

Seth — Have you ever wanted a personal photographer to come take photos behind the scene and during races? 😉

Sure, come with us!

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@Seth Morris Photography

Ray — What was your darkest moment during the race?

The darkest moment for me was the descent to the river. I was coming into Cal 2 (Peachstone) and got extremely cold. I was trying not to spend too much time in aid stations, but I think I took 5 minutes in that one. I was trying to take in a lot of strawberries, ginger ale, and red bull. But, even in the darkest moment, I didn’t feel *that* bad. I guess the hardest part was knowing I should be making up time on this section, and it just was not happening.

Ryan — what did you learn?

Ice is king, stay on top of your fluid/electrolyte intake, and the first 50k is more technical than most people tell you.

Where do you buy the speedos?

All over. Swimoutlet, Bam Bathers, QSwimwear.

Matt — How much beer did you consume the week of?

Hmm, I don’t know. I really didn’t drink much beer in the final weeks leading into Western States. I think I went through 4 bottles of wine and 2 6 packs of beer in June, before Western. After — I made up for all of the lost time lol.

Would you rather claim an Olympic Qualifying marathon time, or a roster of top ultra finishes?

Such a tough question. I have run 2:26 for the marathon. I think I could get down to a 2:19 for the Olympic Trials Qualifier if I would focus on it for a year or so, but I can’t imagine getting down to 2:12-2:14 to make the team. However, I do not think putting together a great ultra resume is out of the question. So, I guess I would pick the ultras: it’s realistic and I enjoy racing over the marathon distance.

Tony — What is it like being that deep into a race and running in 100 degree temps?

Honestly, I didn’t think it was that hot. One of the dudes asked me how warm I thought it was, and I said, “Oh, I don’t know. 80?” What I didn’t know it was 100+ at the river crossing lol. I like it warm, and we trained for heat.

Alexis — What exactly do you eat differently or do to prepare differently for these types of races in unbearable heat?

I don’t really change anything to prepare for the race. I am a big believer of “Race the way you train.” So, I just make sure to stay on top of nutrition/hydration/electrolyte intake. I guess the biggest change for race day is the use of ice. At aid stations I would refill the ice in my hat, neck buff, and even some in the speedo. As far as what I eat daily, nothing changed. I never change my “diet” on race week — the body knows what it needs.

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Foresthill — So much fun!!

Tim — What was the biggest hurdle for prepping for the race and completing the race?

As a flatlander, the biggest hurdle is probably preparing for all of the downhill. There are some pretty long descents that will beat up the quads if they are not ready. As for during the race, the biggest hurdle was probably the decent from Pointed Rocks to No hands Bridge at night, when tired. I fall a lot even in the day, descending at night is just asking for a fall lol. That section is very smooth, but has a few little bumps that will take you down.

Paul — What was the biggest obstacle during the race and what was your biggest win? What’s your next hundo?

The biggest obstacle during the race was probably descending the Pointed Rocks to No Hands Bridge at night. As a someone that falls a lot, downhill running with a headlamp is not my strength lol. The biggest win was probably when I discovered that Red Bull mixed with Ginger Ale is a great thing to settle the stomach and a little energy boost. I’m not sure what my next 100 will be, but it will be something working toward Badwater qualifying.

Scott — How successful do you feel the trail camp was in preparation for the race?

The trail camp is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for Western States 100. You cover the final 70 miles of the race over 3 days. It’s a great. If you cannot make it to the Memorial Day Weekend Camp, The Canyons 100k is a great event and you get to see the harder sections of the course.

Carleen — did you put ice in the Speedo when it got hot? How did you train for the heat?

I did put ice in the speedo! Ice is important in warm races like this. I had ice in the speedo, hat, and neck buff. So, to train for the heat, I did a few sauna sessions, some treadmill running, and would try to do most of my runs mid day (sometimes with winter gear on). I have always been one that handles heat well, so I wasn’t so much worried about heat, but just be prepared for climbing/descending.

Alva — What was your favorite aid station at Western — please mention the one that stuck out the most. What was the most surprising thing about States? What was the most challenging part of the race?

My first answer is Robie Point, only because I knew there was 1/3 mile left of climbing, and then a downhill mile to the finish. The easy answer is Foresthill, because it’s a major point in the race and A LOT of spectators. However, I think the one that stood out the most is Quarry Road. It comes at a point of the race when it’s dark and you’re starting to be a little tired…then out of nowhere you see Christmas lights and hear the music. It’s a good boost.

The most surprising thing about States this year was how deep the women’s field was. 20:04 for 10th place woman is blazin’ fast! That is awesome!

The most challenging part of the race is probably trying to decide how hard to push early and when to back off. You will hear stories of people crushing the high country, and then struggling after Foresthill. I wanted to be competitive, and enjoy it, but I don’t think I nailed the effort level. But, it was a positive experience, and I look forward to making it back to Western someday.

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@Jesse Ellis

Jason — Where did you find those shorts?

QSwimwear

Carol — Did you have any “Holy Shit, I’m actually doing this” moments, and what was that like? What would you want high school kids to know about your experience? How did high school running make you, or get you on the path, to where you are now?

My “holy shit” moment was getting to No Hands Bridge (mile 97) and I was like, “I only have 5k left to run!” At that point I realized I survived the high country, canyons, heat, and only have 600ft of climbing and a little over 3 miles to go. The second was when I passed the “Welcome to Auburn” sign at mile 99. Anything can happen in the final mile, but I had no doubt I was getting to the finish line.

My career has definitely been an interesting one. I never made it to state in high school for cross country, and made it once in the 800m. In college I never won an individual cross country title, nor did I win an individual title on the track. The biggest thing is, if you love it, things will work out — stick with it. Since college, I have been to worlds 2x for the Half Ironman, run 2:26 for the marathon, won an RRCA IL State Title in the Marathon, finished many ultras including 2 100 mile races. Pretty crazy for somebody that was 200m/400m/800m runner. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t limit what you think is possible.

Brian — Do you feel your time in Tahoe before the race helped your performance? Is there something you would have changed in prep?

Time in Tahoe was very important before the race. As somebody coming from the flatlands and 400ft about sea level, it is a struggle to train for mountain races. Our biggest hill is 150ft over 1.5 miles. I was at ~7500ft from June 1 until race day, with my lowest stretch not at altitude being maybe 6 hours. Adjusting to altitude was key for the first 100k of the race. The biggest benefit I got was being able to practice extended climbs and descents, like we would face on race day. I felt great on the climbs and descents. If I could change one thing, I would probably try to get to altitude earlier — come out for Quicksilver 50k, and then stay until Western States.

Andre — What will be the next hundo on your bucket list?
Bucket list — Badwater 135. But, if I had to pick *just* 100 miles, I would probably pick 100 Miles of Istria or Ultra Trail Mt Fuji.

Geri — What is your inner voice message that keeps you going when your body is screaming “stop!!”

“One foot in front of the other, it’s only 100 miles.”

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@Pat Cole

Michael — What made WS100 different from other races?

Western States is different than other 100s/races, because the whole community gets involved. It really does seem like a Western States Family. The aid stations are all excited to see people, from the front runners to the last. The streets are lined at the major aid stations and it is so cool. You may not know it when you get there, but you leave as part of the Western States family. Another cool thing is that the Memorial Day Weekend Camp usually draws quite a few elites. It is a great chance to meet and hang out with some of the elites and legends in a non competitive environment.

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Thank you all for the questions — it’s been fun. #SpeedoInSquaw

Also, Western States was not a solo effort — there are many people that were part of the journey. I would like to thank my crew: Tom, Anthony, Anthony, Bo & Sara, and Jeff & Heather. It is pretty amazing that 6 people that had never met, could come together and crew/pace. I had people flying in from CO, OH, and IL, and somehow it all came together. I would also like to thank sponsors/supporters: inov-8, rabbit, Down To Run, SWORD, Darn Tough Vermont, Vicia Energy Bar, Safety Skin, Squirrel’s Nut Butter. And, lastly, thank you to all of you that have been part of this journey. Thanks for following along.

Feb 19-March 25 — The Ball is Still Rollin’

Wooo, it’s been busy! Here is a rundown of my last 5 weeks of training, fun announcements, and the abridged versions of Land Between The Lakes 23k, Buzzard Day 25k, & Paleozoic 25k.

I am happy to say that I’ll be running for inov-8 for another season. So look for some bright shoes out on the trails this year! I will also be running as a Sword Elite in 2018! I love using liquid calories in training and racing, and Sword hits the spot!

Woooo, inov-8!

2/19-2/25 * 87.1 miles * 6 runs
Beer of the Week: Tangled Roots — 2nd Year Celebration (Russian Imperial Stout)

Once again, coming back from a minor injury. We cut the long run last weekend, and replaced it with two shorter runs. Nothing hurt, but it just didn’t feel right. This week, everything felt normal and ready to go. Sometimes a little recovery goes a long way. The Wednesday workout went great, and then the I had a solid Saturday long run. I was also happy we had already pulled out of Way Too Cool 50k.

Can you actually pack too many shoes for a weekend?!?

2/26-3/4 * 80 miles * 6 runs
Beer of the Week: Ballast Point — Peanut Butter Victory at Sea (Imperial Porter)

This was the first week that I really felt good in a while. After my Wednesday Workout, coach had to remind me to slow down some of my easy days. So I made sure to “chill” on Thursday and Friday, and had a great Saturday Long Run with Brad (a fellow Cornfield Cowboy). I had 25 miles with the last 5 hard, and actually really enjoyed it.

#CornfieldCowboys are at it again!

3/5-3/11 * 83.1 miles * 6 runs
Weekend Beer: Taxman — Qualified (Belgian Quad)

Tune-up Week 1 of 3. We decided to run a series of 23-25k races as a tuneup for American River 50 Mile. I rarely get a chance to do “short” trail races, so I was excited when coach said I could run 3 weekends in a row. This week contained Land Between the Lakes 23k. We drove to Kentucky Thursday & ran 1 loop of the LBL Canal Loop. We explored the Grand Rivers area on Friday, and I got in 9 miles on the canal loop. Saturday • Wake up 3:30am for breakfast. 5:55am started warmup jog from the condo with Jeff. 6:30am Race starts. I knew that to go after the course record, I would need to take the first 2 miles out sub 6:00. The trails had been drying out all week and I thought they would run pretty quick. Unfortunately there was a short storm at 4am that made things a little soft and pretty wet. I hit the trail section and was moving well, but not well enough. I was 20 seconds down by the time I hit the North Aid Station. From there I knew it would be hard to make up time going into the climbing section, but I kept pushing. I felt I moved well through the hills, but lost a little more time. When I hit the final road section, I looked at my watch and knew the chance of the CR would be hard. I had 7:30 to get to the finish, and knew it was probably going to take me 8:30. I had a great final stretch and finished in 1:31:20…the 2nd fastest time ever run at LBL23k. I’ll take it. It was fun to then drive around to different aid station on the course and see some friends and teammates out on the course. That was followed up by a 21 mile trail run on Sunday 🙂

Jeff running a big PR @ LBL 50 Mile!
Crystal finishing the LBL 60k!

3/12-3/18 * 86.3 miles * 6 runs
Beer of the Week: Fat Head’s Brewing — Bumble Berry (Honey Blonde Ale)

We arrived back home from Kentucky on Sunday night. Having Monday as an off day is always glorious in situations like this. The Tuesday run/Wednesday workout went well, and then I was on the road to Ohio for Buzzard Day 25k. Friends from Boulder had recently moved back to Ohio, so I was excited to visit them and run one of my favorite races. I tired to do a course preview on Thursday, but couldn’t quite remember the first half of the course. Somehow I sill ended up at the correct midway point, and was able to run the correct route the 2nd half…well, the correct route from 2016 anyway.

One of my favorite sections of Buzzard Day!

Buzzard Day 25k on Sat went off pretty much without any issue. Race Director Roy, marks the course in a way that you probably won’t get lost it you have run the course before. Disclaimer — the course always changes. Some years it is an out and back, while others years it is a giant loop. I took the lead from the start and never looked back…except for the 0.4 mile detour I made coming off the bike path and onto the lake loop. Flag markings were supposed to always be on the right…except when you have to make the left hand turn to get on to the loop. Oh well, it only added a little extra distance, and some “free” training miles. I was very happy with being able to run all of the climbs this year, compared to 2016, when I had to power hike and walk some of the inclines. We followed the Saturday effort with a 25 mile road run Sunday. Wooooo.

Buzzard Day 25k Champ! Woot!

3/19-3/25 * 78.8 miles * 6 runs
Beer of the Week: Cidergeist (Rhinegeist) — Bubbles (Rosé Ale)

The “On The Run” Tour continued with one last bigger week. The week was pretty uneventful, until Friday when everybody claimed Illinois was going to get 9-12 inches of snow Friday into Saturday…just in time for the Paleozoic 25k. Ugh. I was determined to still run hard and have a good run, but was dreading the thought of doing my Sunday long run on the treadmill. Luckily, I woke up at 5am Saturday and no snow. The course was going to be in perfect conditions. Sure enough, it turned out to be a great morning for running, as I ran my trail 25k PR (1:32:08), the course record, and nailed the race nutrition. No snow on Sunday also — yay for outdoor long runs!

Our weather has been so-so, but hey, it’s not snow!

So, why 3 shorter trail races in a row? I don’t run enough short trail stuff. I like running. I like running a lot. I had to miss some stuff earlier this year, due to injury, so it was nice to build into American River 50 Mile. It was also great to go back to some favorites, and experience new stuff. We are now a little less than 2 weeks out from American River, and I feel fit, healthy, and pretty excited to run 50 miles.

To quote Katy Perry, “Toned, tan, fit, and ready.”

What is next for you? Any fun races coming up?

Jan 22 – Feb 18. Forward Motion.

Three-ish weeks of pain free running — I’ll take it!

Let’s back up a few weeks, and I can explain why this is big. The original plan was to race the Aramco Houston Half Marathon on Jan 14. Unfortunately, a little over a week out from the race, a random pain started in my lower right hamstring. Pain really isn’t the correct word, more of a soreness — could feel it while running fast, but not on slower runs or any other time. The decision was made to not run Houston, go have fun at Frozen Gnome 10k, then take a week to swim.

Interestingly enough, I was able to swim almost the same times as when I was swimming 20k yards/week as a triathlete. Turns out it was a good decision…no soreness or discomfort after 2-3 days and totally fine 7 days later.DCIM106GOPRO

My first two runs back were 6 miles each at a very easy pace. Coach made me promise to be careful the first couple days…luckily muddy trails made that an easy task. And hey, muddy trails are fun.

The first full week back seemed odd and uncomfortable, but no pain. It has been a while since I have taken a full week off of running. You can’t force fitness, but you can do a proper warm up and cool down each day.

The second week back felt normal, almost as if I had not taken time off. Runs were feeling easier and I was even able to get on some trail…before the snow hit. From there, I was basically forced to the treadmill — including a 20 & 14 mile run.DCIM106GOPRO

Week 3 started out well. Temps rose, snow melted, and I finally got to do my first real workout again. Everything felt smooth and ready to focus on American River 50 in April. On Thursday, I went out for an easy trail run, and ended up taking another hard fall on ice.

Everything seemed fine. Friday rolled around and I found a random soreness in my knee. We decided to cut the weekend long run and just get in two easy days, before my usual off day (Monday). Once again, good decision. Discomfort is gone.

A few takeaways from the last couple weeks:

  • Don’t skip a proper warmup/cool down
  • If it hurts, don’t be afraid to take a day or two off — KT Tape is not “fixing it”
  • The Black Panther movie was awesome — go see it

What’s next? I will be heading to Kentucky for the Land Between the Lakes 23k on March 10. Steve Durbin is a great race director, and this seems like a fun start to the spring. I have never raced a 23k, so this will be a new/fun distance on trail.

Have a great week, y’all.

Frozen Gnome 2018

Frozen Gnome is a great winter race, put on by Ornery Mule Racing.  Runners can choose to run 10k (1 loop) or 50k (5 loops).  Course conditions change from year to year, well.. day to day really.  Earlier in the week, it was cold and snow… mid week 50s and rain, followed by single digits and sun.  It went from looking like a snow covered course to almost completely dry…and cold.  After racing the 50k last year, I decided 10k would be the warmest choice.

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The Start

The weather seemed much warmer when I first woke up… 3 degrees and a speedo didn’t seem like a bad choice at the time. Luckily, I quickly warmed up once the race started.

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Properly dressed for a 10k. 3F at the start, sub 0 windchill.

The race went out quick, and I was happy to settle into 2nd place heading into the woods.  Shortly into the 2nd mile, I made the pass for the lead.  I was hoping to run ~40 minutes or slightly under.   Everything seemed to be going well.  Unfortunately, I missed a turn at 2.3 miles, and didn’t realize it until it was too late.  I ended up adding an extra half mile or so to the course.  I guess I just wanted to get an extra hill for Western States training lol.  Oh well.  It’s a good reminder to always pay attention,  even when you think you know the course.  Never get too comfortable.  Frozen Gnome 10k Data 

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Working on that ice beard.

I ended up finishing 5th.  The top 5 of us all went under the previous course record, so that was pretty cool.  Congrats to Ian La Belle and Heidi Mane on their 10k wins, and Kyle Larson and Brienne Famera for winning the 50k.

I was definitely happy to cross the finish line and put some clothes on.  It took a few heavy layers and a couple cups of coffee to finally get warm again.

I would like to say thank you to Michele and Ornery Mule Racing for putting on a great event.  The RD is great, and seriously some of the best volunteers!  Thank you!  Squirrel’s Nut Butter — Thanks for keeping my skin happy.  Not only does it prevent chafing, but it works as a healing salve.  It was great seeing many old friends again, and congrats to everyone that finished the 50k & 10k.  See you at Earth Day!

Hello 2018

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I will be using this to publish race reports, beer & wine reviews, and many other random thoughts as I train for Western States 100. Enjoy!

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