Monday, June 29, 2009

Inside veiw on one Western States runner, great story

Hey Lisa,
I wanted to tell you about my time at Western States. As you know, I've been dealing with a foot injury. Still not _positive_ what the problem is, although Chris Gardner is checking out my MRIs to add her comments. Anyway, I decided not to run WS a few weeks ago after I went for two training runs in one day on the WS course. I experienced some of the worst pain in my life....and that's no exaggeration.
After the second run which ended about 1:30am I was literally laying in the parking lot in absolute agony. Unbelievable pain.Anyway, I had rented a condo at Squaw Village and it was too late to cancel, plus I was hosting a party with a bunch of runner friends, so I had to go. I volunteered to crew for a French guy named, Benoit Laval.
You might have heard of him, he's the owner/founder of Raidlight. I met him last year at WS.I drove to Squaw on Thursday afternoon with Suzanne, a good friend and the gal who was going to pace me from Forest Hill to Rucky. My friend Craig, who paced me at Rocky Raccoon, was going to pace me from Rucky Chuck to the finish. Even though I wasn't running they came up and stayed with me and we had a great party.
However, it was a little difficult chatting with all my friends running WS that Saturday. Friday morning when we got up, Suzanne stepped out to meet someone for coffee and over the next hour Craig proceeded to talk me into running WS. He had been trying since I told him I was not going to run. Well, he finally convinced me so I went out and bought running clothes. I then called Jacki Florine, who I knew was coming up to Squaw, and asked her to bring me some fuel and electrolyte supplies.
I then spent a long time trying to get my head around running a race I hadn't planned on running...not to mention the fact that I had not run one step in about three weeks! To say I was nervous is an understatement! Fortunately, since I was going to crew for Benoit I had my running shoes. Although, I had to tell him I couldn't crew. He was not fact the opposite. He was quite happy for me, aren't ultrarunners the best?!Anyway, I thought a lot about your advice for running Rocky Raccoon and so my strategy was to go sloooooow....VERY slow. When I reached the top of Escarpment and started the slow run down the other side I thought my body was going to just drop.
I was numb and could hardly move. But I just kept at it and finally after a mile or so my body started to loosen...but the pain in my foot had also started. So I eased up...a lot. I looked back at one point and there were only a handful of people behind me....20 maybe. I got worried and started to pick it up, but then said, no I will just go slow no matter how many were in front or behind me...I was going to run MY RACE. I kept at it and began to make good time. I walked when my foot began acting up and ran when I could.
At one point a guy came up behind me and said he thought I was running a very smart race. We chatted for a mile or two and he turned out to be Molly Sheridan's boyfriend! Small world, eh?I made it to Lyon's Ridge (10.5 miles) got my water, grabbed some food and was out in about 1 minute. Because I just pulled everything together at the last minute I had no drop bags, but relied on the fuel at the aid stations and the gels Jacki brought me.
I had also borrowed Craig's hydration pack. I walked when I had to, ran when I could but always resisted the urge to pick up the pace too much...despite the fact that I was feeling great! It was getting warmer, but I felt awesome! I made it to Red Star Ridge (16 miles) feeling great! I got water, food and was out.One other thing I did, starting with the first stop at Escarpment, was to thank God for every aid station I was able to reach. I also thanked him I was able to run in the first place, despite the fact that I was in pain at times.
I was able to enjoy an absolutely incredible day with some spectacular views! I chose to be thankful to God for all the running I was able to do, instead of feeling bad for any running I might not be able to do. I thanked him for each aid station I reached, and then as I left each aid station asked him if I he would allow me to make it to the next aid station. Needless to say God made my time absolutely wonderful!While things were going "fine" I was experiencing pain with greater frequency. So I eased up. My fueling and hydration were going perfect! I have never felt so good. Of course, going slower certainly helped. I thought about all the training and advice you gave fact I thought about you a lot. It kept me motivated. I made it to Duncan Canyon (23.8 miles) with about 10 minutes before the cut-off. I got my water, fuel and was out in about a minute. I checked the time and saw I had 2 hours and 10 minutes before the cut-off at Robison Flat. As I left Duncan Canyon I thought "Wow, 2 hours and 10 minutes is PLENTY of time!"However, going out of Duncan my foot really started acting up...a lot. I could hardly walk and was limping quite a bit. This went on for quite awhile to the point I seriously doubted I would make the cut-off. I knew I wouldn't make it at my current pace and knew I had to do something so I decided to just stop and rest my foot.
I sat on a rock took off my shoe and sock and elevated my foot on another rock for awhile. I had sat next to a stream and decided to cool my foot in the melted snow for awhile. As I sat there I realized what a great time I was having and was so thankful Craig talked me into running. I also wondered if he would surprise me and be at RF when I arrived. He was working the river crossing, but wasn't on until 4pm. Anyway, I decided after about 10+ minutes I had waited long enough. Things were either going to improve or my race was going to be over right then and there.I dried my foot, put my sock and shoe on, splashed some water on my face (by then it was getting real hot) and started down the trail....slowly at first. Then I began realizing the pain was gone and I could I did. I then hit the climb up to RF and the heat really hit hard. It was after 12pm and I was really feeling the heat. But I just dug in and kept at it. I power walked hard all the way...stopping only a couple times. I passed a few people on the way, and kept at it. When I reached a flat section I started running. I wasn't sure exactly how far I had to go, but decided I just had to go hard or it was over. I came up on a guy and said hi as I passed him. He asked me how my foot was and I realized it was Mike Siltman.
I said it was fine and that I wanted to go in strong. I came up on the trail sign that said RF 1/2 mile. I checked my watch and saw I had 22 minutes to the cut-off. It was then I realized I would make it on time, but needed to hurry so I could weigh-in, get water, shove some much needed food in my mouth, and grab some food and coke for the trail. As I came running strong around the corner to the aid station there was Craig shouting excitedly and telling me how strong I looked. I did feel great! I was thinking about how awesome I felt despite the heat and the fact I had run/walked almost 30 miles in the mountains. I thought a lot about your advice about going slow and not worrying about how fast others were going.I got in, got weighed, got my water, shoved some chips in my mouth, grabbed some cookies, GU, and Payday pieces, then thanked the volunteers with a mouth full of chips and headed out with a few minutes to spare. Craig was giving me lots of encouragement and advice. He told me how great I looked and how proud he was of me. As I headed towards the trail I stopped, turned around and told Craig how much it meant to me that he came to RF to check on me. That was one of the best moments of the whole race, at least from the human element stand point.As I headed out on the trail I soon realized I couldn't run with two hands full of food and drink, so I decided just to walk slowly up the hill and enjoy the food that tasted SOOOO good! I checked the time and saw I had about an hour and 25 minutes to go 4.7 miles to Miller's Defeat.
I felt very comfortable about making it in time. As I walked up the hill eating I thanked God again for making it to what I believed to be the hardest cut-off thus far. I enjoyed the walk up the hill and when I reached the top I took one last check on the time and thought it was going to be a nice run to MD.However, it was not to be. My foot pain started right away and would not go away. I couldn't really run due to all the rocks, which served to aggravate the pain even more to no end. I hobbled down the hill as fast as I could, but it was just too slow. I finally made it to a jeep road and was finally able to run some. I kept at it as much as possible and realized if I didn't reach the aid station soon it was over. I checked my watch and felt if I could make it to MD with 5 minutes before the cut-off I could get in, get my water/fuel and get out in time. My foot was really bothering me but I could run, so I did. As I came around a bend I saw a bunch of pile-ons and ribbons and flags. I checked my watch and smiled as I saw I was going to reach the aid station with 5 minutes to spare...or so I thought. As I got there I saw there were signs informing us runners that the aid station was moved 0.8 miles down the trail. I stopped and read the sign over and over hoping it was a mistake. But it wasn't.I knew at that point the race was over for me. No one could make it 0.8 miles, mostly up hill, at almost 6,000' in less than 5 minutes after having run over 34 miles. However, I kept at it because I at least wanted to finish strong. I made it to the aid station and they greeted me, then said I missed the cut-off by a couple minutes. I told them I knew and just sat down. I ate and drank and chatted with the volunteers.
Then Gordy Ainsleigh came in having missed the cut-off too. A few other runners came in and we all chatted about the race and the day. I then proceeded to help the volunteers take down the aid station. I had so much energy and felt so good I told them I had to help and couldn't just sit still.While I am disappointed about the outcome, and felt I could have kept going for awhile had they not moved the aid station, I was quite pleased I was out there and had such a great time. The aid station had apparently been set up in the wrong place for over 10 years and the rangers finally corrected the location. That's okay, I was just so glad Craig convinced me to run. I told him again a little while ago and he said he knew I would have a great time regardless of the outcome. He was the only one to keep at it with me. He was the only one who believed I would be better off running even if it was only to Escarpment...and he was a big way!Sorry for the lengthy email. I think I've been using this email to you to think about my time yesterday. Thanks for listening....uh...reading.
I hope all is well!

1 comment:

Runner Tammy said...


What an inspiring story! Please send my congratulations to Steve for having the courage to start this very tough event on a very challenging day (even without his pre-existing medical condition).

I loved the positive attitude and optimism clearly evident in this letter.