Western States

When my friend, Brian, asked a few months ago if I’d like to run with him the last 20 miles of Western States 100, I immediately said yes. I had some hesitation knowing it would be during the middle of the night, but I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to help a friend and to be a part of such a prestigious race. I hadn’t even begun thinking about doing my 100K yet, but it did work out nicely being 2 weeks out from my first ultra race. I have known Brian awhile because our kids have been friends since they were little, his wife helped me tremendously with the homeschooling of my kids. When he lived in Sacramento, we usually ran the California International Marathon together, but once he started telling me I should meet him at the finish with his other friends at 2am and run it backwards to the start and then do it all over, I started telling him he was crazy! He’s done numerous 100’s, 'Badwater 135' a few times, and LOTS of ultras, and I always said he was crazy and I’d never do an ultra race! Now here I am, about a week away from running 62 miles!

I wanted to do a recap on the pacing/crewing part of Western States because it was so much fun, really inspiring, and I loved every minute of it! After going to my kids’ track meet all morning, I got to the 55 mile aid station around 4:30 on Saturday afternoon and waited with the rest of his crew for him to come in, next we moved on to the 62 mile aid station as it was getting dark and into the evening hours. His friend, Steve, took the pacing from there until the next aid station when I’d run to the finish, so we got coffee, gas and set out to the Greengate aid station. I was getting very tired and a little cold, but I kept reminding myself that if all these runners can RUN all day and all night, I can certainly sit and wait and then run the measly 20 miles to the finish!

Around 3:30 am, it was time to go! So into the darkness we ran, with our headlamps and flashlights onto the trail towards Auburn. I just kept my eyes out for the trail markers and then on the ground so I wouldn’t fall. We could always hear runners behind us or ahead of us in the darkness or see lights coming from behind. For me, it was kind of cool running in the dark, but I can imagine that after running through so much darkness, the sunrise was a welcome sight for all the runners! It was incredible to be running through the forest and trees as the sun came up, with the quiet sounds of birds chirping. Our goal was just to keep moving faster on the flat parts and as fast as possible on the hills, and to get to the next aid station - where music, a buffet of food, and very friendly race volunteers always greeted us!

We needed to stay on pace, so not much time at aid stations, and just keep moving – that was the goal! We came through 2 aid stations before we saw the rest of the crew again at mile 93, and then again at mile 96.8 for the final climb out of the canyon to the finish. I had run this portion several times and knew it was a tough few miles to the end, but I couldn’t imagine running it after 96 miles, and as it was starting to get very warm as well! Brian was passing runners and we were keeping a great pace, and all of the runners we passed were still so determined and friendly, it was awesome! As we neared the neighborhood the crew and Brian’s son met us and walked in to the finish line on the HS track in Auburn. Finally, as we came to the track, he took off and finished 100 miles with his family next to him, it was so great!

I was truly inspired by being a part of Western States race and helping Brian get to the finish. I used to think I knew what tired was, because I had run marathons. But I saw runners that had been up all night, had gone through rivers, had blisters on their feet, aching quads and backs, and were still running! Brian got stung by an insect and twisted an ankle just while I was with him, but when I said we had to get running, not walking, that’s what we did. I’m not sure I would have had the strength and determination to keep going in a race like this, but it certainly made me want to try harder at every race I do. Thanks, Brian, for a truly unforgettable experience and a huge congrats on such an amazing accomplishment! Check out this great video below, produced by Iso Yucra.

~ Melissa

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