A lifelong dream of mine was to win the Western States 100 Mile. I knew it would be a long shot, but no matter what I was going to keep chasing that dream. In knowing how talented the women’s field was this year, and that each year it keeps drawing more, I was unsure if that dream would ever become a reality. I knew that I had to prepare myself as best as I could if I even wanted to place in the Top 10. So that is what I did. Everything since February was focused on Western States.
Leading up to the race I had my fair share of misfortunes. Those could have set me back if I would have had a negative outlook on them. Instead I focused on what positives I could draw out of them. This in fact was a great help in getting my mind ready for tackling the 100-mile distance. I have found that if you keep positive and focus your energy on what is going right versus what isn’t, you don’t become overwhelmed. You then realize that you can get through the tough times and that they really aren’t as significant as they seem.
|A broken A/C = heat training|
Now to get into the race…what you’ve really been waiting for.
Walking up to the start line I felt a sense of calmness, which I haven’t felt before in the past. I had decided that I would focus on my goals and make sure that I ran my race. As we lined up to start I felt the chill in the air and talked with others around. I tipped my head down and said a prayer. Then the countdown began 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…*shot gun blast* and we’re off.
My plan was to ease into the race and start off conservative. I had my head down and just focused on my body and breathing keeping the effort relaxed. I found myself running with Andy Reed, whom I met at the Sliver State 50 Mile. He had waited 6 years to get into Western States. It was amazing talking with him and seeing how excited he was to experience this iconic day. Then we came to the top of Escarpment, and to my surprise I was leading the women. Magdalena Boulet was right behind me so as tradition has it, we turned and watched the sun rise! We gave each other a big hug and continued down the trail. Those are priceless moments.
|Top of Escarpment. Photo Credit: Paul Nelson|
It was between the Red Star Ridge Aid Station and Duncan Canyon Aid Station that Devon and I got separated. As I ran down into the Duncan Canyon AS, I was amped up by the amazing volunteers and the excitement of seeing my crew Chris and Kristina for the first time. They made me feel like a rock star coming on stage to perform. I grabbed my fresh handheld and carried on. This next section I will always remember as the area where I had my black bear encounter in 2014. I am always looking around to see if my little teddy bear friend is around. Luckily, he/she wasn’t. I settled into a groove and feeling good. My body and mind were both happy. The happiness of running on the trail kept a smile on my face. Soon I noticed the sun becoming warmer in this section so I was grateful that Chris had put ice in my water bottle. It can be a game changer.
I ran into Robinson Flat still feeling great. The volunteers and crowds once again amped me up and I saw Coach Koop and gave him the thumbs up that everything was going great so far. I then started to ascend the climb out of Robinson and decided the run/hike approach would be appropriate to keep my effort controlled. I remembered back to the training camp and how much snow had been in this section, which was now dry. I started to descend down from the top and this was the first time I got a little worried. I was thinking how I was only 30ish miles into the race and that I had a very long ways to go. I started asking myself, “Will I have enough energy to finish…”. I quickly answered that question with a gel and drink from my handheld. I told myself I was not going to “run” out of energy if I stayed on top of my nutrition. And that was that.
The next section I knew I could overdo, since it was very runnable and downhill. I dialed it back a bit, just to be cautious that I wouldn’t ‘blow’ out my quads or hip flexors. I had learned this lesson from the past. I caught up with Ben Bucklin and then Mark Austin. It was great to run with both of them, because I had at training camp. It brought back so many great memories. I got to Dusty Corners AS and grabbed my second handheld, because I didn’t want to run out of fluid during the canyons. I had the goal to not let the canyons destroy me.
I climbed the canyons with Kyle Pietari who was constantly being called Devon. He and I laughed about it. He was such a good sport about it too. He soon dusted me on the second canyon and I kept trucking along in great spirits. I got a rock in the side of my shoe and pulled over to get it out before it ended up causing a big problem. I’ve learned you have to deal with the little issues right away before they become big issues. I got to the top of the last canyon and saw Byron Powell, with iRunFar, that always lifts me up. I was so happy to have survived the canyons and to be running strongly into Michigan Bluff AS. This is where one of Billy Yang’s videographers started filming footage of me. We were chatting along when suddenly I glanced to my right side and saw a SNAKE coming out towards me!! I shrieked loudly and jumped about 5 feet in the air, okay more like 5 inches but it really seemed far up! I laughed at myself as I got into he AS.
|Finishing the final climb out of the canyons. |
Photo Credit: Byron Powell iRunFar
I checked in with my crew and Jason. I told them I was feeling strong and happy. I was ready to get to Foresthill and pick up my ultra-pixie pacer, Miguel! They smiled and sent me on my way down the dusty trail.
|Slamming a Dew and getting sound advice from Coach Koop.|
I got into Foresthill and was overjoyed again to see all the volunteers and crowds. I found Miguel and we soon headed down to Cal Street. I had to ask right away how my mom was doing at the Black Hills 50 Mile. He said she was moving good and having a great time. This warmed my heart to hear. We got about a mile into the run when I finally said that I had to stop and pee for the first time. I stopped and squatted off the trail. Let me tell you, holding it for that long makes you pee like a racehorse. I never thought I was going to be done! Finally…I did and we continued on. I noticed that as we were cruising down Cal-1 I was starting to feel nauseated. I decided to ignore it and push on. It soon got to the point that I was forced to walk a bit. Miguel was so good about keeping positive and keeping me from getting anxious. Then I just got to feeling so bad that I stopped and bent over. I stood back up and had a couple burps and felt back to normal. Wow, that was a quick and easy fix. We continued the rest of the run to the river in good spirits, just as we do on our daily training runs.
|Foresthill w/ Miguel. Photo Credit: Dominic Grossman|
The river is always a bitter-sweet moment for me. The shock of the cold water always makes me a little uneasy, but I know how good it makes my body feel after and it is worth it. Hence the pictures of my “oh my gosh, it’s cold” face! We ran/hiked to Green Gate and grabbed our headlights. Miguel did some math and said we had a good chance to make it to Brown’s Bar (89.9 miles) before needing our headlights. That would be the first time we have ever made it that far in the light. We made a plan to push the pace a bit through the next couple sections to get every ounce of light we could.
|Photo Credit: Byron Powell iRunFar|
We let Brown’s Bar and then turned our headlights on. We were cruising down the trial and I noticed I hadn’t seen a yellow flag in awhile. Then we came down to a small water crossing and I looked ahead and saw, at that time a wall of weeds and what looked like a dead end. I turned to Miguel and yelled, “GO back, we must have missed a turn!”. So, we started running back on the trail and it took only about two-tenths and there was a ribbon. What a relief. We turned back and ran back down to the little water crossing. This time we crossed and sure enough there was another yellow ribbon. Sheesh…
We saw the lights of No Hands AS (96.8 miles) and that gave me a final charge. We came into the AS and I saw Chris and Jason. This was when I gave Jason a hug and realized that I was going to win. A huge wave of emotion hit me. I started crying and smiling in complete elation. I looked down at my watch and noticed that we had a possibility to break 18 hours. I asked Miguel to do the math and he gave me some mile splits that I would need to average. I was on a mission now. As we got across No Hands Bridge a photographer took some pictures. In retrospect that was when I had passed Jim Walmsley, who had just put down one of the most inspiring races in Western States history. I tried my best to run as hard as I could going up Robie’s Point. This was when Miguel and I separated. He had not gotten to stop long enough at the past AS to get food and was now feeling it. That’s the tough part for pacers…they are at their runners mercy.
Once I crested to the top, the Robie Point AS volunteers were shouting and giving me the final fire to take it home. I had two young women run up to me and ask if they could pace me to the track. I was overjoyed to have them come with me. I found out as we were running down the streets of Auburn that they were 17-year old triplets! Their other sister, Alexis was at home resting after being in a tournament that day. But, I had Hailey and Annabelle take me home to the track. It was a moment that I won’t forget. We parted ways as I entered the track. I couldn’t believe the day and moment I had dreamed about was coming true!! I rounded the track letting the moment sink in as I high-fived the crowd. I crossed the finish thanking God for being blessed by the amazing gift to run. I gave Craig Thornley (RD) a hug and the first thing he said is, “You won!”.
|Elation of crossing the finish line. Photo Credit: Melissa Ruse of SweetM Images|
Dreams do come true. If you have the passion for something and you give your whole heart to it, you can achieve what you never thought could be possible. I want to thank God for allowing me these opportunities to glorify him. Thank you to my family who go above and beyond. Miguel Ordorica who is my training partner, ultra-pixie pacer, and best friend. My Coach Jason Koop who has allowed me to achieve my dreams by fine tuning my training and working through countless data for me. My crew Chris and Kristina, who give their whole day dedicated to me and meeting my needs. I cannot thank you enough. Also, during their trip out to Western States became engaged!! Congrats you two!! The support of my Nike Trail Running Team. Along with Carbo Pro and Honey Stinger to meet my nutritional needs. Thank you everyone who follows me and are my friends and fans! You ROCK!
|Ultra Crew Chris & Kristina|
|Team Pixie Ninja: Kristina, Chris, me, and Miguel|
|2016 Western States winners Andrew Miller & myself. |
Photo Credit: Gary Wang
|Top 10 Women. Photo Credit: Gary Wang|
Shoes: Nike Trail Kigers 3 (one pair)
Clothing: Nike green jersey, Nike split-shorts, Nike pink visor, Swift-Wick socks, arm sleeves, ice bandana, gloves.
Headlight: Petzl headlight
Nutrition: Nathan Handhelds, gels, honey stinger waffles, honey stinger chews, Carbo Pro
AS Nutrition: cookies, chips, potatoes, watermelon, PayDay candy bars, gels, Coke, Mountain Dew