**Warning – Long extended version. See below for the short brief race report**
What is fear and why are we so afraid of it? Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat to us. It is something that can either cripple us or challenge us. We are given that choice to make.
Why do I talk about fear? Well I had fear going into Western States this year. Fear that my injury might come back. Fear that I wasn’t fit enough. Fear that I might fail. Fear that I might not meet expectations. Fear of the distance of running 100 miles. Plainly fear of the unknown.
I decided I was not going to let fear cripple me. I was going to challenge it. I do not want to live life in fear. My passion for running and my passion for Western States is far stronger than the fear of the unknowns. I chose to rise up and face my fears head on.
|The light at the end of the tunnel. PC: Howie Stern|
Here’s my story.
The Start Line (0 miles) – Walking to the start felt so surreal. Yes, it was finally happening. I couldn’t believe I was able to piece enough training together to be healthy and ready to take on the Western States 100 this year. Tears started running down my face as I stood there waiting to count down the final seconds next to Stephanie Violett, Aliza Lapierre, and Meghan Laws. Stephanie and I gave each a big hug as we both worked hard to get here ready to make this year better than the last. Meghan grabbed me and gave me a big hug and words of encouragement. It was time to climb to the top of Escarpment to have our sunrise date we had planned.
Escarpment (~4.5 miles) – Reaching the summit of Escarpment, Stephanie and I hugged and turned to see the beautiful sunrise across Lake Tahoe. We grabbed Aliza to join us in this memorable moment. It’s been a tradition that we have had since we started running the race. It’s a moment to stop, breathe, and be grateful for life and the friends among us.
|PC: Victor Rodrigues|
|PC: Melissa Ruse|
The High Country – Running in the high country is always so breathtaking. The large evergreen trees, the massive granite boulders, and views of the surrounding mountains are picturesque. I found myself settled into a pace and effort that I felt my body could sustain. I shared several miles with Aliza, Corrine, and others. As I was running I was feeling more at ease, then it happened. I tripped on a rock that sent flying forward landing hard on my left leg to keep me from falling down. It was same side that I had my pelvic fracture on. My groin instantly started to ache. Fear shot into my mind. I had thoughts that the pain would only get worse and would cause me to fail, as I still had 90+ more miles to go. I took a deep breath and challenged those thoughts by telling myself to keep going and see how it goes. I knew during training I have had pain in this area before, and it would come and go randomly. I just had to let go and have faith.
I continued on and the pain stayed at only a dull ache. It was just a little reminder to stay patient and run smart.
Reaching Duncan Canyon (24.4 miles) I met up my crew, Chris and Kristina. It was a welcoming surprise to see Sally McRae and Zac Marion there too! As I was heading out of the aid station Chris took me by the shoulders and said something that made me laugh so hard. He said he had a very important message from Miguel…in a Snoop Dogg voice he said, “Just Chiiillll”. I left laughing so hard that I tripped just a ways down the trail dropping my package of cookies…yet still laughing! I picked up my cookies and soon had another runner right behind me. I asked him his name and he said he it was Nick. Well it was great to have company and Nick was running his first Western States! We ended up chatting and the miles and time flew by. My heart and my head were both in the right place. I was so happy to be here.
Robinson’s Flat (30.3 miles) – Here I met my coach, Jason Koop, along with Andy Jones-Wilkins and the other CTS group. They both said I was looking great and running a smart race. I got what I needed and left, having a big smile on my face. I continued on to see a welcoming surprise of Dakota Jones atop one of the hills. He shouted out some positive and encouraging words as I made my way down to the start of the canyons. Here the temperature was beginning to rise.
The Canyons (43-55 miles) – Time to manage the heat. I iced down and took two bottles at Duncan Canyon ready to take on the canyons. I enjoyed sharing the climb to Devil’s Thumb with Corrine, Bob, and Kate. I actually thought it was fun! Just as we were reaching the top to Devil’s Thumb the song “Walk” by Pantera came on. It was the perfect song! “BREATHE…SPIT…WALK.” And yes, I was singing these lyrics out loud because you have to have fun! I shared more miles along with Camelia, Kate, and Nick as we made our way to Michigan Bluff.
|Cooling down. PC: Allen Lucas|
Michigan Bluff (mile 55) - I managed the canyons well making it to Michigan Bluff still happy and in control. I was running at the right effort for my body. I did a quick change with gear and headed on down the road to Foresthill. I caught up and shared miles and stories with Brian Oestrike, who had run The Bear the same year as me in 2016. Reaching the top of the canyon leading to Bath Road I was running again with Nick. We ran into Foresthill together. I was having such a good and fun day. Still smiling!
|Coming into Foresthill! PC: Alva Voo|
Foresthill (62 miles) – Here Miguel was to pace me for the final miles. I was excited to see him and my crew. We took off down the road to Cal-street in good spirits. We started making our way down to the trail when suddenly the legendary Pam Smith came upon us. She was looking so good. She and I grabbed a quick picture before she made her way down the trail. Miguel and I were moving good through Cal-1.
|Picking up Miguel! PC: Ian Torrence|
Then Cal-2…my nemesis. Every year one of the Cal-street sections gets me. As we were going I started feeling terrible. I felt like I couldn’t breathe well, my right hip was really starting to hurt and I was getting overheated. I had to walk/run a lot of this section. Once we got to the Cal-2 aid station I was desperate for some pain relief and asked for a couple of Tylenol. They gave me two, iced me down, and sent me on my way.
As we were making our way down to Cal-3 I started to find that I was breathing better and my hip was beginning to feel less painful. I started running well again. Then as we were getting closer to Rucky Chucky Miguel started feeling awful. He said his stomach wasn’t good and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to pace me after the river.
Once crossed the river to Green Gate embracing the cold American River water, Miguel and I made the decision that he would stop at Green Gate and go with Chris and Kristina. He said he would get himself better and be out at Pointed Rocks to pace me to the finish. This meant I had about 13+ miles to go alone in the dark. Time to be brave…because, I get scared running alone in the dark. I have this ongoing fear that a mountain lion will attack me.
Green Gate to Pointed Rocks (79.8 – 94.3 miles) – This section always seems long to me. I decided to turn my iPod on and listen to some music. This was a perfect distraction so that I wasn’t thinking about mountain lions the whole time. I ran well in this section making decent time. I played leapfrog with a few runners, Nick being one of them!
Pointed Rocks to No Hands Bridge (94.3 – 96.8 miles) – By the time I reached Pointed Rocks my right hip was back to hurting very bad. The Tylenol had worn off. I could tell it was inflammation in the bursa of the right hip. Every downhill felt like someone was stabbing a knife into my hip. However, I had zero pelvic pain! That was a huge win. I picked Miguel back up and he was feeling much better. I struggled to run all the way to No Hands Bridge, but did a lot of fast walking. We made it to No Hands and Miguel told me I had a good shot at breaking 21 hours. That was the little motivation I needed to get me running again.
Robie Point to the Auburn Track (98.9 – 100.2 miles) – I did everything I could to ignore the pain and keep running. I was focused on the goal…sub 21 hours. We pushed up Robie’s Point and to the top of the road. Here we saw the final mile sign. We had made it!! We picked up the pace and entered the stadium to embrace the long journey it had been to get here. I was overcome with joy and happiness hearing Tropical John announce my name over the loud speakers. Finishing and getting a big hug from Craig Thornley, the Western States race director, was the moment of truth. I had conquered my fear and I had won!
|At the track! PC: Allen Lucas|
|Elation! PC:Michelle Rice|
20:48:56 12thplace female – 5thWestern States Finish – 10th100 mile race finished
|No Fear. PC: Howie Stern|
In summary I ran the perfect race I could have given my level of fitness and having to come back from injury. Not being able to train or run for months definitely made me lose a lot of strength and cardiovascular fitness. I had basically three months of training to get me prepared to run 100 miles. That is why I had to be honest, and not let myself compare or get down on myself for not being where I was in years past. And with that mindset I was able to run happy and enjoy the race!
Thank You - It is a huge appreciation to what goes into making a phenomenal race like Western States happen. Thank you Craig Thornley for your tireless enthusiasm, compassion, and commitment to the race. Thank you to all the volunteers who gave up their time to be there to support each and every runner out on the course. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you to all the race committee, who are behind the scenes doing so much work we don’t even know about.
Thank you God for giving me the gift to run and having my faith become stronger through these trials. To my coach, Jason Koop, for providing me the support, training, and knowledge to get me ready to run Western States. To my crew, Chris and Kristina Hall, who tirelessly provide me with everything I need to make my race successful. To my family who are supportive and provide me the love and strength I need. #GrandmaStrong And to all my friends and fans…your words of good luck, encouragement, and support mean the world to me. And to my wonderful Sponsors who allow me to do what I love. This includes Altra, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Drymax Socks, Honey Stinger, and Carmichael Training System.
|Grandma Strong! PC: Lori Leonard|
And a very special thank you to Miguel Ordorica. He is not only my pacer, training partner, and best friend…he is someone that is always there for me. He has given me unconditional support through the good times and the bad. I couldn’t ask for a better best friend and I truly couldn’t do this without you. Thank you!!
Shoes – Altra Timps (one pair the entire race)
Socks – Drymax Stephanie Howe edition
Kit – Altra race top/shorts/visor/ice hat/ice bandana
Hydration – 2 Nathan 20 oz handhelds
Nutrition – M&M’s, Keebler Cookies, small packages of mini Kit Kats and Reese’s, potatoes w/ salt, Honey Stinger Waffles, crackers, watermelon, chocolate covered espresso beans, animal crackers. (First race I ate only real food…no gels)
Fluid – Water, Lemon-Lime Gatorade, Coke and Mountain Dew.
Anti-chafe - Squirrel’s Nut Butter
Watches - Garmin 910XT then Garmin Fenix5