Thursday, October 20, 2016

Eastern States 100 2016

It just couldn't possibly happen.  I couldn't let it happen.  There was no way that I was mentally, or emotionally prepared to let anyone cross that finish line ahead of me.  The road behind me stretched too far, the training had gone too well, I wanted it too badly, and deep in my chest, it ached too desperately to not get what I'd sacrificed so much to achieve.  Not even a 19 year old, young gun with serious wheels was going to deter my aspirations.  My Mom used to tell me, "Devon, patience is a virtue."  Though I'll continue to go back and forth along a long ridge, bouncing from side to side, this is a sentiment I'll always keep trying to improve upon.   Thanks Mum.  The Eastern States 100, on August 13th, 2016 was a true test of patience.

I had run Eastern two years ago, for the inaugural run, soon after moving to Steamboat.  It kicked my ass, but I still finished 3rd, thankfully.  After a really intense, and memorable training block this winter, I had my hopes set on top two at Black Canyon 100k, with the objective of getting a spot into Western States.  I fell slightly short, placed 5th behind Sage Canaday, who absolutely annihilated the course, but came out feeling really good about my performance overall, running a 9:07 100k, in intense heat.  You'd think I was bummed, but it was just fuel for the fire.  It was February, and it was time to choose a focus 100 miler for the year, as Western, and Hardrock weren't going to happen, this time.  It took a lot of self examination, and soul searching to make to right decision.  At the end of the day, I said to myself, "I want to go to Eastern States, and run really fast, with a slew of the people that I love by my side.  I love the course, I love the heat, and I think it's one of the most technical courses around."  And that's exactly what I pursued.

Under the guidance of my coach Justin Ricks, I was able to recover from Jemez 50 in May, fairly quickly, and get back to the last big training block before Eastern.  Man, aside from a shitty little quad strain right before pulling out of Speedgoat 50k, my training was next to flawless.  Justin had me doing workouts like 40 minute uphill tempos every single week.  Holy cow, talk about pain.  He had me running pretty much every single day, and rarely ran less than 80 miles a week. I topped out at a 121 week, followed by an about 104 week. He had me working my little ass off.  Justin, along with his wife, Denise, also happen to be my sponsors (Mad Moose Events).  I was absolutely focused.  I was confident, but not too cocky.  I wanted to go home, and represent Pennsylvania, as well as Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  Those two things weighed heavily in my mind.  Most importantly, I wanted to make my coach, friends, and family proud.

As race day approached, training became more emotional, and I kept envisioning how things would go.  Looking back, it gives me tingles thinking about some of those intense moments, alone, out on the trails.  The days I ditched my friends to go run.  The nights I called it early because of what I had to do the next day.  The smiles, and sense of achievement after a hard workout.  The sore legs, all the time.  Those are the things that demand success.  Those are the things that stoke my fire.

I arrived at Happy Acres Resort campground on the Thursday before the race, meeting my friend Ron Martin, who would be crew leader.  It was so good chilling with Ron in the woods for a couple days.  He knew I had it in me.  He knew my goals, and expected nothing less than perfect.  I went out for 4 miles upon arrival, up a really amazing trail near the campground.  I knew right then, that Saturday was going to be hotter than hell.  I had a brilliant time, and didn't want to turn around, as those trails are remote, and gnarly.

I woke up Friday morning practically naked, and sweating like a fat man.  The humidity blew my mind.  I always forget how intense it is.  Ron and I didn't do too much that day, just caught up, and chatted.  I made it a point to drink lots of water and liquids throughout the day, and eat well.

Soon enough, I woke up around 3am Saturday, in my tent.  I hadn't gotten much sleep, and was slightly stressed that my friends Avery, and Jesse (from Steamboat) hadn't made it.  I woke up, looked inside a truck parked across the jeep road, only to find Avery passed out in the passenger seat, and Jesse sleeping on the ground next to the truck.  If you only knew Jesse, you'd expect nothing less.  hahahah.  A real mountain man.

Pre Race
PC: Tania Lezak

It would be a battle between myself, and Patrick Caron
PC: Tania Lezak
So there we were, Jesse, Avery, Ron, and myself at the start, game faces and all.  It was about to be on.  The energy in the air was relaxed, but serious, and intently focused with all parties involved.  The boys wished me luck, Avery told me to show them how we do it in Steamboat, and before I knew it, we were off....and we weren't going slow.

I was not that surprised about the fastish start.  I expected it.  I did not really research the entrants list too much, as I didn't care much.  I saw that Patrick had run some REALLY fast 50 mile times, but didn't worry much.  I also didn't see a 100 mile finish on his resume.  100 miles is really far.  What happens between 60, and 100 is really fucked up, to be perfectly honest.  A comedian would have a hay day with footage like that.

It is always the plan to run my own race.  I don't stress too much about what everyone else is doing.  My thought, going out in 3rd, or 4th place was that "this is perfect, right where I wanna be."  I found out later that Patrick's plan was to lead the race from the gun, and win it.  Well, I don't race 100 miles like that.  To each his own.  Yeah, it is a running race, but it's Eastern States; 22,000' of climbing/descending, 103 miles, and super technical all day.  This year was overwhelmingly hot, and humid.  It deserves respect.  Therefore, I had no fear.  I told myself "may the best man win."  I didn't give up all day.  That's a first in a hundred miler.

As always, the first 20-30 miles were fairly uneventful, and a good opportunity to get the legs warmed up.  I'd say that I was moving at a great pace.  I really focused on not letting my heart rate spike at all.  I knew that I wanted to run well the last 30 miles, and wouldn't be able to hold on if I pushed too early.  No matter what, Patrick had already created a 25 minute gap by mile 17.8, though I had caught third, and fourth, and moseyed my way into second place for the rest of the day.
Lower Pine-AS 3-mile 17.8
PC: Tania Lezak
My friend Jesse, and Avery getting me out of Lower Pine
PC: Jeff Calvert
By right around the marathon mark at Browns Run AS (aid station), I was finally getting into my groove, was feeling light, feathery, and was crushing calories, salt, and water like it was my job.  I had gapped 3rd by around 10 minutes, but Patrick had 25 on me, which seemed to be the story most of the day.  At this point, the humidity was ridiculous.  I was lucky to have brought a hat to put ice in, 
Zoning out, enjoying the PA wilds
PC: Jim Blandford
which seems to work really well for me.

I didn't see the crew at all from Lower Pine AS, until Ritchie Road AS (38.5), which was a really productive 20 mile section.  Man, it was just so much fun running these trails.  Pennsylvania trails can be really intense, with so many running alongside, or in creek beds.  The rocks are always mossy, slippery, and you rarely get a break.  I found myself grinning from ear to ear on several occasions.

I came into Ritchie Road with people cheering me on, addressing me by name.  It was really cool.  At so many junctures in the race, random people were like, "Devon, you know this course.  This is your race.  Go get him!  You're looking strong...etc."  I really felt a strong sense of pride for originally becoming a trail runner in PA.  It was such an honor to have so many local folks rooting for me.  One of the many reasons I returned to this race was to get that record in the hands of a PA guy, even though I'm living in Colorado these days.  Ron, Avery, and Jesse were waiting for me, got me stocked up, told me they'd see me in less than five miles, and my family would be there waiting for me.  Holy moly, I just started laying it down.  I felt great.  The emotional highs, and lows were just beginning.

Hyner AS (43.2)
PC: Manu Gili

The next section from Hyner, to Halfway House AS (54.7), was full of rollers, and difficulty.  I kept my composure, and moved fairly efficiently, but definitely had a little low spot, which passed after eating more, and being patient.  It was still really hot, and there was a solid 8-9 mile section with no water stops at all.  I ran dry for at least a few miles, which really pushed back my effort.  By the time I reached Halfway House AS, Patrick probably had about 35 minutes on me.  He was just cruising.  But, it was still just a little over halfway done.  Lots of time.  Lots of miles.  I also saw a cub up in a tree in this section.  I didn't see mama, but did get the hell out of there.  A few miles down the trail, something growled at me through the thicket.  Yes, I freaking swear, growled at me.  Again, there was NO point in sticking around to find out what it was. 

From Halfway House, it was about 9 miles until I'd see my crew again at Slate Run AS (63.8).  Patrick was still maintaining at least a 30 minute lead, but no matter what, I felt really confident about the pace I was running.  I rolled into Slate Run a little run down, but still moving pretty consistently. 

Slate Run was a really vital AS, for me.  This is when the race really started, in my eyes.  I wouldn't be seeing any of my crew of 16 or so miles, where I'd pick up my boy Jesse to pace at Blackwell AS (80.3).  My crew forgot my backpack with my light jacket in it, across the river in the truck, so I got some pizza, and calories in me while they rushed over to get that, and my headlamp ready.  I probably spent more time at this AS than any other, which ended up being a great thing, because I got some solid food in me, and mentally prepared for the last section of running alone.  I will also go and say that this was my crankiest part of the run.  I'm a spitting ball of fire when I want to be, and sometimes my crew has to deal with me bitching, and swearing, and throwing mini tantrums.  Okay, sometimes really big tantrums.  This time I kept it to a minimum, I think.  

So, I left Slate Run, and began the really arduous climb that followed.  That climb, really wasn't much fun.  I kind of ate too much food at the aid, was starting to feel the miles, and the night was approaching.  But then, like everything in life, things changed.  The next two aids, in between where I could see my crew, were called Algerines (69.1), and Long Branch (75.6).  Shit got real around here.  My level of stoke was growing every step I took.  There was a lot of grunting, and extreme focus.  Right before dark, I arrived at Algerines, set up in the middle of the woods, which I'm pretty sure is where there were all these Amish dudes working the AS.  Those guys were so rad.  They got me all fired up.  I think that was my favorite aid station.  As soon as I left those guys, a monsoon began.  As branches came down all around me, and lightning struck in front of my face, I huttled under my light jacket, and told myself, "This is fucking amazing.  This is what trail running in PA is all about.  It's time to turn it up."  The storm revitalized my soul.  I was alone.  I was smiling.  I was wild.  I was tearing those trails up as much as they were tearing me up.  Those were some incredible moments, that I'll savor forever.  It was wu wei, a concept in Daoism.  Doing without doing.  

After the rain ceased, and I passed through Long Branch, I knew there was less than 5 miles until I'd see my crew, and get a pacer (Jesse).  At this point, it was strictly business.  I ran those miles fast.  I felt like I was at 30, not 80.  I approached Blackwell AS (80.3) frantically screaming what I needed, to get out as fast as possible.  I had officially gone into the loony bin.  Regardless, I had restocked, picked up Jesse, and left in under 60 seconds.  It was awesome.  My crew was on fire.  I had closed the gap to less than 20 minutes, and I wasn't going to stop there.  

There were a few good little climbs right after leaving Blackwell.  I think one was called Gillespie Point.  Jesse was immediately impressed with the course.  He also had no idea how I was moving so quickly.  We were working hard the whole time, pretty much running everything, except really steep stuff.  The 3700' of climbing that is Mt. Werner (10,600), that happens to be in my backyard, prepared me to run sub 10 minute miles uphill at 80+ miles in.  

Jesse and I have put in a lot of great runs together.  I told him sometime after picking him up at Blackwell, that "you know, I had some really magical moments out there today, running by myself, but man, am I glad to see you!"  It was so much fun having him there for 12+ miles.

We ran through Skytop AS at 84.8 like a couple of freaks on amphetamines.  "Where is he?  How long ago was he here?" inquiring about Patrick.  At Skytop, I had a dog bother me the entire time, so I was really glad to get out of there.  18 minutes.  18 miles to go.  18 minutes to make up.

Jesse and I rushing into Barrens AS (92.8)
PC: Tania Lezak
As you can see by how sweaty Jesse, and I were, we were running like absolute manics.  It was So. Much. Fun.  I told Jesse about how much I wanted that Ax, a stupid, material item, that only is symbolic of what you've achieved.  The entire way he ran with me, he kept saying, "Just keep thinking about that ax.  That's your ax.  Go get that ax."  My mind was so fried, that obsessing over getting that ax, only made sense.  

And then it happened,  Jesse and I arrived at Barrens, the last crew accessible AS, to Avery, and Ron screaming at me, while I screamed at them.  It was really intense.  Patrick was right outside of the aid.  I had caught him.  It was time to put myself into a really dark place for one more time. 

I had no idea it was going to happen, but Avery jumped in, and Jesse concluded his miles with me.  Jesse was so excited.  Avery was so excited.  Ron was ecstatic.  And me, it was just another day at the office, for me.  

Avery and I left Barrens just flying down the trail.  Within minutes, I had caught Patrick.  I told him, "good work", then put the hammer down.  We passed at a rather high rate of speed.  I don't know what Patrick was thinking, but I know what I was thinking.  "There is 10 miles left, and I'm going to run every single one as if my life depended on it.  Having Avery there was cool.  We were bullshitting the whole way.  Me, telling stories from the day, asking how everyone was dealing with my parents all day, with Avery making me laugh, and telling me how proud everyone was of my efforts.  I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  But, I was still desperately nervous that Patrick would catch me.  Man, we were just "floating", as Avery described it later.  

And then, Haketts AS (99.1), with one last descent left on the day.  At this point, yeah I pushed, but I knew I was taking the title.  It was a tough last 4 or so miles to the finish, but we powered through it, and made it count.  After what seemed like 5 long years,Avery and I sprinted across the finish line, and "Team Devon" celebrated the kick ass day we all had.  I couldn't have done it without them.

To start, thanks to race director Craig Fleming, as he has to put in so much to make this race happen.  It took much time, and planning, over a serious period of time, to make this epic 100 mile loop happen.  Thanks to my parents for both showing up to something that means so much to me.  Thanks to my brother Kevin for being the most awesome bro ever.  Thanks to my sister Lindsay, and her "Italian family", the Gili's.  You guys rock!  I really appreciate your presence, and good vibes.  Uncle Dennis, you're the man, thanks dude.  Ron Martin, you are the best crew a person could ask for.  What a great friend.  Coach Justin Ricks, and Mad Moose Events, you have helped me achieve the impossible.  Thank You.  Lastly, my bros Avery and Jesse that came all the way from Colorado, just wow.  I love going on runs with you guys.  I love drinking beer with you guys.  Mostly, you're just two of my best friends, that I love spending my minutes with.  Thanks dudes.  And, to all of you that continue to cheer for me, and offer kind words, thank you.  It was one hell of a day.

Here are some random pics from the day.

Trouble is all we know
Me, Dad, Mum
Bros for life
Lindsay, Uncle Dennis, crew in the back, The Gili's on the right
Best crew ever- Ron, Jesse, Avery
Uncle Dennis and Kevin goofing around
Kevin, Uncle Dennis, and the Italiani

RD Craig Fleming and I


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jemez 50. May 21st, 2016.

Ultras, especially 50+ miles are such a journey, and it seems that there are so many memories from the day, that I forget most of them, as it's just one big extended adventure, with millions of moments packed into a folder in your brain.  I kind of like that.  Sometimes when you pull up anything from the past, it's better to think of it as a feeling, and conceptualize that time period, or event, rather than focus so much on the little details, and particular moments.  When I look back as the continuum of time extends, reflection is more complete, complex, and my perspective on happenings are more well rounded after I've had time to let emotions, and sentiments ease.  This is for me, at least, which is exactly why I rarely write a race report until at least a couple weeks afterward.

I had traveled to Los Alamos at this time last year, with the intention of getting one last really long run in before Western States about a month later.  Like this year, I had traveled solo, and had drop bags planned accordingly.  It wasn't my day, and I'd be taking much longer than I'd originally anticipated, so I dropped out early.  I wasn't about to ruin anything for Western, as the investments, and planning are no short of hearty, a result of being the most competitive, most historic 100 there is.  Out of my three DNF's thus far, this was the only one that didn't really piss me off, or bum me out.  This year, however, there was no way in hell that I was going to quit, especially since my focus race (Eastern States 100) isn't until August.

Arriving on Thursday for a Saturday morning start was a great idea, something I didn't do last year.  I sucked it up and bought a hotel room Thursday, and camped at the start/finish the night before the race.  I think it's safe to say that I slept worse the night before than I ever have before a race.  I must've woke up 10 times.  It's strange because the night before Black Canyon 100k a few months ago, I had the best pre race sleep ever.  It's likely that it was just pre race jitters.  Either way, I slept like shit, and had to get out of my warm sleeping bag twice to pee, which pissed me off even further.  As a result, I was really glad to get up and get going, which I'm not sure I'll ever say again, because I love sleeping way more than waking up.

After much anticipation, they told us to get out of there, and we took off for the single track a short ways down a dirt farm road.  I was not stoked to have taken off in 1st place, but the pace seemed overly conservative at first.  But damnit, what am I doing ahead of Nick Clark (now 3 time winner of Jemez) at only 4 miles in?  It was not what I had in mind, but I just said, "oh well, just run your own race."  So I did.  Shortly down the trail, Nick Clark, Ben Lewis, and I think Matt Preslar and Michael Carson caught up to me.   Nick and Ben, and I chatted a bit, and it was rad, as those dudes are super nice guys, and also exceptional athletes, especially Nick.  He's got an ultra resume the length of Alaska.  That's rather large.  Anyways, Nick, Ben, and I think Matt, and Carson passed me, and I wasn't too upset.  For some reason, I didn't really feel all that great the first 20 or so.  In fact, I really didn't feel great all day.  A stupidly missed turn that cost me over a mile got me a little out of position, but I did my best to let it go, and move forward, with still lots of race.  I was pretty sure that I'd pick off at least a couple of them before the end, but I was pretty sure that no one would catch Nick.  He was moving very efficiently and fast as shit.

Jim Stein Photography

I did eventually catch up to Michael Carson, and Matt Preslar.  I remember running down the jeep road into the canyon with Matt.  We were getting after it.  Carson and I eventually pulled away from Matt on an off trail climb right up a mountain.  Dude, that shit was gnarly.  For real.  Michael and I ran together in 3rd and 4th for quite a while around the 50k distance.  We both left Pajarito Canyon aid station (~mile 32) for the last big climb of the day.  I was really lucky to have grabbed an extra bottle for the climb, as it was hot, and almost completely exposed to the sun.  I felt good on most of the climb and pulled away from Carson.  Though I was pushing pretty well the last 20, he must have been too, because he only finished ten minutes after me.

The last 8 miles of Jemez in Los Alamos, New Mexico includes a very hot, exposed 10k descent, followed by 2 miles of hills and flats.  It was sometime on that last descent that I realized what I was in for when I finished.  But, I didn't care as I was ready to be done, and was already not too satisfied with failing to break 9 hours.  So, I did what I knew I should; push to the finish, finish strong, and get the damn thing over with!

I finished in around 9:29, securing a solid 3rd place, tried to drink some water and ginger ale, then  walked over to my black car baking in the afternoon sun.  Sure enough, I lost what little I had in my stomach to the gravel parking lot, then looked around to make sure no one saw the dude resting on the front of his car, puking his guts out.  I then said to myself out loud, "Love running ultras", grabbed a sleeping bag, and pillow from the corolla, then proceeded to find the only shaded spot under the few trees in the lot to lay down, and feel like garbage for about a half hour or so.  Of course, a couple of 50k runners that were camping where I decided to throw down my sleeping bag looked after me to make sure I was okay.  This happened again with more nice people, as I decided that I'd try to be a functional human being, get up and go try and get something into my stomach.  This time, a very nice couple with a very cool camper gave me a seat, a coca cola, some kind of electrolyte pills to help the stomach, and nice conversation to help me forget about feeling like hell.  Again, I was committed to integrating myself back to the finish line festivities, so I thanked these kind people, proceeded to the porta john, purged all that coke, water, and electrolyte pills, right on top of someones fresh shit.  It was a great time.  Jesus.  If I ever think I'm having a bad time, I'll just think back to this moment, and realize that things could be way more shitty.  See what I did there?

Lucky for me, that was the last of the vomiting for the day.  Shortly after, I did in fact pull myself together enough to go back to the after party, slowly got rehydrated, had the medical staff wash the dirt and rocks out of my elbow (from falling too many times), and eventually ate some real food.

The volunteers knew their stuff.  Photo: Martha Katko

This race felt like what most races in the sport try to embody; a grassroots/local feel, with professional execution, and a comfortable atmosphere created by like minded people gathering together.  I think Jemez does it even better than most.  You can tell that they've really honed  everything involved in hosting a great event.  Like most races, the volunteers were spectacular, and really helped me out before, during, and after the race.  I really like it when I succeed at making them laugh at my stupid sarcasm, and terrible jokes.  I think with all the training, and seriousness involved in being a committed ultra runner, it's important to laugh, and have fun, and not be so self-involved all the time.  If I still do this nonsense when I'm an old man, I'm going to hang around the aid stations for at least 10-20 minutes each, tell a few jokes, flirt with all the girls, and laugh about it the rest of the day.  Basically, I will be my father, but a runner.  Oh man, it's going to be a long road ahead.

Thanks to everyone that helped put on a great event.  Thanks to all the wonderful, kind people that I got to meet.  Thanks to my family, and friends.  Thanks to my coach Justin Ricks, and Mad Moose Events for the support.

Thanks for reading!  Next up is Speedgoat 50k on July 8th.  Here's some music for listening.

Some new punk rock from an old local band that got back together to record this one song.

                                                    Their new band 'One If By Land'

   And just to make sure you're feelin aight...some flashlight.  Don't forget to put on your sunglasses.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Black Canyon 100k

It's kind of funny to think that I've been running any kind of races, let alone 100 milers in competition for the last couple or so years.  That's right, in competition.  It's so wild.  The reason I say this is because I hated sports until I started running, and really probably still do in a certain way.  I grew up playing music in a small American town in north western Pennsylvania.  I therefore was inclined to not appreciate competition, as I was already favoring the punks, artists, and musicians over any associations with high school sports (jocks).  It's a shame that being a real individual was so complicated in the time and place.  All of my surroundings seemed so divided, so black and white, all of which fostered an impression that the world is small. However, I always thought running was so badass. That, and soccer.  I did neither.  But, I wanted to.

Fast forward-February 2016, I live with another ultra/mountain runner who is 4 years younger than me.  His name is Avery Collins.  He was, and kind of is a jock.  This is a dude that I would have hated in high school.  He would have hated me as well.  He listens to the kind of rap I can't take seriously, country, and some other random shit.  I listen to nothing shitty, that's all.  It's my blog, after all. Avery and I moved in together without knowing a damn thing about each other, besides meeting for five minutes after Table Rock 54 in 2013.  We're both huge pains in the asses, but at the end of the day, we've developed a really great friendship, and have had some amazing journeys since moving to Steamboat (so many miles on the corolla).  It's been hilarious how much we have in common for being so different.  I think we have equal laughs at each other.  We both think we're much cooler than the other.  We've agreed to disagree. So far I've got him into Trampled by Turtles,  The Roots, Otis Reading, and somehow Blink 182 and Rancid.  He got me on the rap song that's like "These hoooooooees, they fuck everybody."  Is that Juicy J?  Then, another one that's like "is that your girl, oops, I'm sorry."-love that one.  Lastly, he's making me hate country less.  I don't like it, mainly because it is really great pop music with some lame guy/chick singing with a country twang, frequently having laughable lyrics.  However, I am trying to understand, slowly but surely.

With this all being said, it's time to talk running.  Avery and I hopped in my car on the Thursday, and cranked the drive to North Phoenix in about 12 hours.  We arrived at our hotel around 3am, got some fast food burritos, then got some sleep.  As soon as we woke up, we drove to the finish line, and I went out for 3 or 4 miles, while Avery went for a bit longer.  While I waited for him to get back to trailhead, I chatted with some people, and had a few laughs.  Afterwards, we did the packet pickup thing, ran a few errands, then had pizza with our friend Chris, his girlfriend Kat, and fellow Pennsylvanian Jeff Calvert.  Chris and Jeff would both be running the 100k as well.  Soon enough, we parted ways, and returned to the hotel for the remainder of the evening.  Finally, I got some sleep the night before the race.
Pre race game face
Race day has come.  Pre-race festivities were confined to the cafeteria at the Anthem high school.  Soon enough 7am came, and we were off!  The best laugh I had all day was a group of about 5 guys running with Sage Canaday from the gun, thinking that they'd actually keep up with him.  I personally don't think there was anyone there that could compete with Sage.  He's a madman.  Goodness, I do some not very thought out things on the reg, but thank god it wasn't the case on this day.  Until I run a sub 2:30 marathon, I won't do that.  So, I didn't.  I simply ran the race how I like to-do passing, don't get passed much.

The first 20-30 miles were pretty neat, as I ran quite a few miles with legend Hal Koerner.  I acted like I didn't know him even though everyone in the ultra community knows him...haha.  I even got to pick up a gel he dropped as I was running behind him.  He thanked me.  Overall, that dude is a class act, and has succeeded for very good reasons, and has helped inspire so many trail runners of my generation.  I also had the chance to run with Michael Carson, and Michael Owen, both very talented/awesome dudes.  I really enjoy talking to other runners out on the course.  A previous girl in my life once told me that I'm such a "chit chatter."  She was right.  I just want someone to talk to, someone to joke around with, someone to laugh at my lame jokes.  Even in trail running, there are douchers that only care about the sport of the pursuit, and forget about the importance of art, and creativity in running.  Doing things for the right reasons.  I've experienced it with highly competitive people/sore losers out on the course a couple times.  It's weird to me.  Some are such incredible humans, and some are fucking elitists.  I remember a time when I was first learning how to play the guitar, and had the revelation that just because someone is great at playing, and writing, doesn't necessarily mean they are fantastic humans.  Some of my heroes sucked at life.  Man, that was a punch to the chest.  Luckily, this happens way less frequently in trail running than most genres of active, personal pursuits, that present a challenge in one way or the other!  I don't run to play football if that makes any sense.  If I wanted to play football, I would.  I don't.

Just getting started!
Damn, we were running pretty fast the first 30.  I mean really, the entire 62 was pretty fast if you ask me.  For a lot of the first 26, I was running in a pack of a few guys.  Hal was in there for a while, Michael Carson, and Owen for a bit, and a couple other guys I don't remember.  I'd say that we were 8th, 9th, 10th, or something like that.  I was feeling really strong despite the fast pace.
Michael Owen and I early on

The classic Devon squint.  Just not a lover of shades.

I passed Hal and someone else around 26 or 30 miles in.  From that point on, I just got into the zone, and focused on eating as many gels as my body would allow, taking lots of salt, and drinking enough water.  The Eastern States 100 hat I got as part of the swag helped a ton, as I packed it with ice at the aid stations, which helped keep my body temperature regulated, as most of the day was very hot, and sunny.  It is also very dry in the desert, so you're sweating way more than you'd imagine, while it evaporated instantly.

Cooling off in a water crossing.
Still running with confidence, and plenty of energy, I picked Avery up to pace the last ~23 around 37 or so.  After all, he wanted to get some miles in for the day as well!  However, he had just started running again a couple days prior after killing it at HURT 100 about a month ago.  We also live in Steamboat.  It's cold in Steamboat.  He got a bit sick out there due to the heat and had to stop, but told me to keep going.  This is somewhere around mile 50.  However, right before I left him, he helped me get the needles out of my toe, a result of kicking a cactus on the side of the trail.  That set me back a solid 5 minutes.  What a pain in the ass it was.  Actually, a pain in the toe.

At this point, I had bouts of leg cramping.  This went on for about the last 20 miles.  Every time I ate a salt pill, the cramping went away for a couple miles, then returned.  Man, I was scared.  I was eating like 3 or more pills an hour the latter half.  Your'e only supposed to take 1 an hour, 2 at max.  The last 4 miles, I had 3 salt pills; I know, so messed up.  But, it worked.  After examining my shorts and shirt post race, it made sense, as I was basically a human salt lick.  Other than the cactus, and the cramping, I had no really low point at all.  That doesn't happen very often.

So, sometime after I picked Avery up, around 40 miles in, I caught up with a Scotsman, Paul, who I got to chat with after the race.  Him and I went back and forth a time or two, before I decided that I wanted 5th place.  Then, finally mile 59 aid station rolls around.  Only 3 or so miles left.  I stopped to chug ginger ale, and fill up on water.  Paul comes into the aid right as I'm leaving.  "Holy cow, this is not happening."  So, I put my man pants on and started throwing down, knowing that I was so close.  I was like, "No freaking way am I getting passed for top five in the last three miles of 100k."  And soon enough I reached the 1.5 miles to go mark (I knew because of the previous days 3 miler, out/back).  I gave it all I could without cramping, crossed the finish line, secured 5th place, and went to sit down while I waited for Avery to reappear, as I had no clue where he was, or when he'd make it back.

Is that the best smile you've got?

Like always, I was like someone on crack cocaine from ingesting so much sugar, and caffeine.  I do love Roctane gels by GU.  They are the best, in my opinion.  The quality is reflected by cost per gel.  It was really great to meet new people, and chat for a while.  One of my favorite parts about the sport is celebrating together after working so hard.  People say it all the time, but it's true; the mountain/ultra/trail communities include very diverse groups of people in terms of occupation, and background.  There are dirtbags, lawyers, doctors, students, plumbers, nomads, entrepreneurs, and the list goes on.  Naturally, I tried to chat it up with everyone that would sit near me, and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't scare too many off!  Eventually Avery made it back, and we got a ride back to my car, which our new friends Kelsey and Keely were kind enough to provide for us.  We definitely owe them a few beers.  After getting back to the hotel, showering, and getting ready, Avery and I went to a really good beer/pizza joint near the hotel, had a few laughs, and indulged in the high of the day.  It sure was a great one.

The next day we made our way back to Steamboat.  It was long, but not overly torturous.  Plus, driving mostly in daylight gives you lots to look at on the long, desolate, turnless, western roads.  I drove for a while, listened to my awesome music, then Avery drove for a while, and listened to that shit he listens to (evil laughs).  Before we knew it, we were back in the land of paradise, Steamboat Springs.

It's possible that a lot of people think that I didn't reach my goal in this race, because I didn't get that Golden Ticket to Western States 100 (top 2).  However, I think I ran the best race of my life, and am very pleased with my time of 9:07, to earn 5th overall.  This last training block had me in crazy good shape, and it's clear that those speed workouts prescribed by my coach, Justin Ricks, were very much necessary.

I'd like to thank all my family and friends for being so caring, and amazing, especially over the last couple years.  It's so wonderful to have so many fantastic people in my life.  It's hard to keep in contact with everyone all the time, but no matter what, I'm always thinking of them.

Avery was my main man for the day.  His crewing, and pacing for a bit is definitely appreciated.  These long road trips wouldn't be as easy, or hilarious without his company.

Justin Ricks is big time to be thanked.  He has helped me start growing into a much stronger, more focused, and confident athlete.  I am also really excited to announce that I'll be Mad Moose Event's (Justin's race series) first ambassador for the 2016 season.  They host some stellar races, and are growing like crazy.  Check them out!  Pike's Peak Ultra looks amazing.

The rest of this years racing plans are not totally concrete just yet, but as of yesterday (March 10th), I'm signed up for Eastern States 100 on August 13th, (7th on the waitlist, with 225 total entrants)!  I will probably run a couple 50k's, and a couple 50 milers beforehand.  Annnnnd....I really want to do two 100s again this season.  So, I may try to crawl my way through Run Rabbit Run a month after Eastern, or try for Pine to Palm, also a month later...or maybe I'll just go on some cool adventures!  Either way, it's with much gratitude that you're still reading.  That's commitment right there.

Until next time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Run Rabbit Run 2015

A few days after finishing the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, my roommate Avery asked me, "So, are you going to write a race report for RRR?  I mean, you did finish."  "Hmmmm, I haven't really thought about that too much.  I guess I could.  I didn't have a splendid race, but I did finish.  Yeah....I freaking finished that bitch.  YEAH!  No DNF (did not finish) this year! BAM!"

Moments like these remind me that it'd be ridiculous to be disappointed in running my slowest ever 100 miler in a time of 26:36:28.  I finished 38th out of 153 finishers, with 145 DNF's.  It's really crazy, and unrealistic to expect everything in life to go perfectly.  And with running ~105 miles in the Rockies through the solitude of the night without a pacer, I'd be an ungrateful sap that deserves a swift kick to the groin if I was truly dissatisfied with how things turned out.  I will also say with certainty that RRR 2015 was easily my hardest 100 thus far (4 completions), and inflicted more discomfort than any race to date.  But, somehow I kept going.

To get started, I'd like to say that I'm pretty much ending my racing season.  I've been recovering better than ever, and have been able to get back at it pretty quickly, but that burning desire to compete has naturally dissipated until next year.  My goal is to maximize fun, because if you're not having fun, you yourself may not be that much fun.  At this point, fun is not toeing a line for me.  This is the greatest part of running to me; freedom.  Constantly reflecting on my punk rock, do it yourself, slightly rebellious childhood, I'll never forget and will always take away that I can do whatever the Fuck I want, with a capital F.  And more importantly, not to give a damn about conventional ways of approaching your muse.  After all, your happiness, or lack of it is yours and no one else's, so we gotta own that shit!  

My recovery from Western States at the end of June went extremely well, and I was able to get in an excellent training block before doing a little taper for RRR.  With Justin Ricks coaching/consulting  for the couple months before, and answering any questions about training I had, I was in excellent shape going into race day.  I don't think I'd change anything about the way I trained, or tapered.  It's just, you know, 100 miles, a step into the unknown to say the least.

As race day approached with a summer of some of the best memories I'll ever have, surrounded by brilliant people of all backgrounds, my heart was in this for Steamboat Springs.  This race meant, and still means the world to me.  It sounds like a lot of pressure, but I felt none.  Just plain stoked.  Determined.  Ready to represent.  I've met so many genuine people since I've moved here, and the local running scene is not huge, but is so tight, and friendly.  We also have thousands of miles of trails that weave through some of the most beautiful country I could ask for.

The race started at noon.  I hate getting up early, so I was not mad about this at all.  Both of my roommates, my neighbor friend Cara, our friend Eva, my friend Jesse (who'd also be running), and myself walked over to the start about an hour before the start.

Starting up the mountain at the very start (~3700' climb) wasn't too bad.  Since the course took us straight up the ski runs for well over half of the climb, it was only like 5 or 6 miles to the top.  I think that for us locals, it is pretty uneventful how the course utilizes "the mountain", or Mt. Werner; via ski runs and service road.  I guess it's a good way for spectators to watch from the gondola, and I'm not sure what permitting entails, but to me, the fun way up is on mostly single track, and takes nearly 10 miles.  I chose not to wear my watch, because I'd be too lazy to look at it anyways, and it'd likely die around half ways in.  Plus, 100 miles is such a journey that it feels unimportant to me.  I can get all the data and splits online, but no technology can convince me to work harder, and be better.

After reaching the top of Mt. Werner (Storm Peak), I began the gradually descending rolling section to Long Lake AS (aid station), known as Mountain View trail.  At this point everyone is still rolling into the stations in packs, still in close proximity.  This would be the case for a little less than the first half of the race.
My roommates and I-Fish Creek Falls Parking lot
The goal for me was to concentrate my efforts in not letting the exertion level get too generous.  I wanted to remain consistent.  With that being said, I ran very closely with 2014's 2nd place Josh Arthur, and Western States' record holder Timmy Olson for much of the first 40 miles, and kept wondering what in God's name I was doing this far up front so soon.  But, to be perfectly blunt, I never felt uncomfortable with my pace, and felt relaxed, but focused.  That is....until I stopped eating...and drinking.

My laziness, and/or forgetfulness started around half ways in, which also happens to be when it gets cold, dark, and you climb back up to 10,000'.  I was much better prepared for the cold this year, but damn it was frigid up there.  I'll probably repeat this a few more times.

Eventually I made it to the Summit Lake AS on Buffalo Pass after a miserable 6 or so mile section of dirt road, before taking Buff Pass Road down to Dry Lake.  It was kinda funny when I finally got to Summit Lake AS.  I refused to go in the warm, cozy tent, because I'd never get out (this is where I got trapped last year).  A volunteer filled my bottle, laughed at me, then I began the uneventful ~8 mile descent to Dry Lake where I'd see my crew for the first time in 20 miles.

I'm not sure what time it was when I got to Dry Lake (mile 65), but it was late.  By this point my neglect had begun running a very expensive tab.  I'd be shocked if I was even getting 100 calories an hour.  Looking back, I'm like "Devon, you're such an idiot.  What the hell, man."  But then again, I didn't ever consider quitting, and had ample opportunity to do so.

Somehow I ran surprisingly fast down Spring Creek trail to mile 70 before turning around back up to Dry Lake (mile 75ish).  The journey back up was what I'd describe as shit.  I returned to my crew totally exhausted, cold, hungry, but not really able to eat.  I sat in a chair for a good 40 minutes wrapped in a blanket refusing to eat much.  My crew did manage to get me some ginger ale, and a couple bites of the PBJ/banana/nutella sandwich I invented (no big deal).

Thankfully for my crew, I did eventually leave for the 8 mile climb back into the wilderness.  This would be the last time I'd see them until the end.  According to my watch on a previous training run, there were about 30 miles left.  Totally drained, malnourished, but determined to finish, I basically crawled back up to Summit Lake AS.  On a few occasions I almost fell asleep while walking.

By the time I finally reached Summit Lake (82) the sun was coming up, and I needed to sit down.  I had only taken a couple sips of water in the last couple hours.  "Dammit Devon.  Let's see how deep we can dig this hole you've dug for yourself."  I was very happy to see that AS.  I took a nap in a chair, then drank a cup or two of instant coffee that totally hit the spot.  Suddenly, Ryan Case comes in with the girl he was pacing, Elizabeth.  Ryan and I raced together at Behind the Rocks 50 back in March, and it was energizing to see him.  I thought, "this is my chance to get out of here", so I left with Elizabeth and Ryan.

It was pretty awesome up at 10,000' at the crack of dawn.  Steamboat is just gorgeous.  The beginning to a beautiful day made the struggle more tolerable.  Also, though it was a bit chilly, the rising sun made for ideal running conditions, even though I wasn't running much.

Long Lake AS came and they were partying it up, drinking beers, and having a good old time.  I wish I could've stayed!  There were a few locals that recognized me, which made a Tecate, or PBR quite tempting.  "Just 7 miles up Mountain View trail, then down Werner, and I'm done", I kept reminding myself.  Starting up Mountain View started off great, then shifted to me saying, "man, I'm so fucked right now" several times, and forcing a few laughs about my deteriorated self.

After sitting on a few rocks, and enjoying the alpine views provided on Mountain View, the final AS came after what seemed like forever.  I'd come nearly 100 miles, and all that was left was a 7ish mile descent to the finish.  It'd been a long day, night, and morning, and the sun illuminated the golden colors of the mountain glow.  I decided to take a seat at the Storm Peak AS, enjoy the view, chat with a few volunteers, and crack a few bad jokes before being on my way.  It took a couple miles for my legs to get used to the downhill, but eventually I could only envision the end.  I'd run this service road 100 times, and I knew the mountain like the back of my hand, so I ran pretty quickly from the gondola to the finish.

Free hugs for all finishers!
Crossing the finish line in 100 miles never comes without great struggle, and humbles to the depths of your soul.  I wanted this finish for me, for my family, for my friends, for my town.  And through persistence, and being willing to change my focus from racing to not giving up, the end did eventually come.  And that is life, man.  There are so many instances that just getting up in the morning is a struggle, let alone building, and maintaining a life for yourself.  It's the reassurance that permanence isn't real that keeps me moving forward in more ways than one.  You're going to get beat down, let down, and shot down.  Others are going to try and pull you down.  You're going to break some hearts.  And get your heart broken.  And sometimes it's so overwhelming that it feels like there is no end.  But, there definitely is.  And being cognizant that life is so damn short, and we are so incredibly insignificant in the grand scheme of things should make us want to take every moment as if it's the last.  I think that's a large part of why I ever considered running 100 miles in the first place.

Most of my crew was waiting for me at the finish, drinking beer and carrying along.  I finished with a laugh as Avery, who was volunteering, was chose to announce at the finish.  His words were something like, "And here's Devon Olson!  He moved to Steamboat a year ago, and is getting older so needs to settle down  with a house, and kids.  Devon's also going to quit 100 milers to focus on his 5k PR."  The only thing I could think was "Who in the hell gave Avery a microphone?  Are you even kidding me?"
In all seriousness, it was awesome to see everyone at the finish.  Everyone was really happy for me, and I think they were stoked for my finish.  After chatting with loads of people, drinking a couple beers, and catching up with fellow Pennsylvanian (now Colorado Springs), and world class runner Jared Hazen, I started hobbling for the 0.7 mile walk home.  Luckily, my friends Eric and Luke picked me up shortly, and dropped me at my door.  It was good to finish a race, and go home to bed in the same day.

I'd like to say that I am very thankful for such a successful season.  I'm not going to post all of my results.  That's what is for.  I am however very stoked about every single one of them, and will mark running a 19:11 at Western States as my best/most emotional finish yet.  I accomplished my goal of the season-to finish two 100s in the summer of 2015.  No 100 mile DNF.  Aside from a very amazing season of running, and racing in the high country, I've had so much fun this summer that I still haven't realized it yet.  I've also met some really incredible people that are absolutely infectious, but in that unique sort of way.

A finish at RRR 100 2015 was a great way to end the season.  As for next year, I'm hoping to do another big 100 (Western States, Hardrock, Leadville), but obviously contingent on lotteries.  Until all that stuff gets figured out, it's nice to just get out and enjoy for enjoyment's sake.  Because it's the slow season here in Steamboat, it'll be nice to go see friends and family in the east come November.  It'll also be great to get out on the Laurel Highlands trail!

Thanks to such an awesome/committed crew that sat in the bone chilling cold waiting for me-Avery Collins, Cara Weiner, Watkins Fulk-Gray, Eva Vaikus, and Hans Ulmer.  I really appreciate how much you guys were pulling for me out there.  It's friends like you that kept me moving.  Avery and I have logged some miles together, so he knows me pretty well.  They did a great job.

Thanks to my good friend Jesse (who will probably never read this), who though didn't have the day he wanted at his first stab at 100, is a total badass.  About 70% of my training for this race ended up being with Jesse, with lots of very productive miles.  Jesse is a really solid friend, and I'm stoked we got to train so much together for RRR.

Thanks to Justin Ricks for believing in me enough to offer his coaching services.  Though training for RRR was mostly on me, he did give me a few good workouts, and plenty of valuable advice.  I'm really excited to work with Justin in 2016, and continue to improve.

Thanks to all the Steamboaters.  I'm really fortunate to live in such a caring community of people.  There were so many locals, both runners and non-runners rooting for me.  That's so amazing to me.  It makes me want to be better, but not in that selfish kind of way.  It makes me want to become great to represent the brilliant hills and people I'm surrounded by.

Lastly, thanks to my family.  Three years ago, I don't think they had any idea what I was doing with the running thing.  Amazingly, they've really come around, and are my biggest fans.  I think they understand, and see how much effort, and emotion I put into running in the mountains.  It's hard being on the other side of the country, but these hills have my heart.  As the years slip into the past, I'm learning to cherish time with family much more than when I was 18.

Cheers everyone!  I don't have lots of good pictures this time so here's a song I've been digging the last couple months.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Western States 100 reflections

It seems to me that after every good race, you have the chance to bathe in your successes for a few days before everything levels out again, and life becomes more normal again.  This seems especially apparent in 100+ miles.  So much time and energy goes into such a feat.  There's no faking 100 miles.  That being said, post Western States has left me not super high, not super low, not too content, but not at all unhappy.  It's that sweet spot where you just roll with the punches, and can hardly look back because you just want to be moving forward.  I think that for me, that is at least partially satisfaction.  And when I stop to really think about it, satisfaction without stagnation is what gets me up everyday, and propels my ambitions, and inspires me to keep on keepin' on.

Just a few short years ago when I became aware of The Western States Endurance Run, there was no way that I could, would, or should run 100 miles in one push.  This race was unreachable, and would only ever be a dream stored in the dark, dusty closet somewhere in the back of my mind.  Isn't it funny how things change?

On one uneventful morning in December my roommate Avery and I were huddled around our electronic devices watching the lotteries for Western States and Hardrock, as I'd only a single ticket with hopes of Western, and Avery had an equally terrible chance at Hardrock Hundred.  The selecting was about three-quarters of the way done, and it was apparent that I'd just have to try again next year. And then I heard music in air.  "From Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Devon Olson".  I was celebrating by the time he finished saying "From Steamboat Springs".  Some things got knocked over, broken, and I almost broke myself in the midst of celebration.  Nothing like a good party!  Perma-smile!

Avery and I packed up my Corolla and left for Tahoe City on Wednesday the 24th, a few or so hours before the sun set.  These long road trips are becoming like clock work for us.  There's definitively an art to traveling efficiently, and safely.  Either way, we were pretty glad to see the "Welcome to California" sign, and feel the relief of almost reaching our destination.  Ultrarunning sometimes requires ultra driving; that is, driving so far that you feel and act like a maniac, but just keep driving anyway.  My friend Dave and I used to take ultra-driving trips, and talk like Irish people for hours just to stay entertained, and awake....then we couldn't stop talking with accents.  Ughhhh, we did it to ourselves.  Good times.
The starting line the day before takeoff
Anywho, the pre-race jitters were as typical as ever.  However, I knew that I was going into this race in great shape, and felt very confident in finishing at the very least.  After all, Western had been in the back of my mind since being selected way back in December.  I'd been fortunate and disciplined enough to run every day the month of May except for two, with a few doubles squeezed in, and even one 3 run day.  It's just that "100 miles is really far".  That's right Karl Meltzer!  "100 miles is not, not that far".  That guy is one of the most badass in the sport, and has the most 100 mile wins, but I still think he's full of shit with the "100 miles is not that far" crap.  A 5k is not far.  For us crazies, a marathon is not far.  But 100 miles....yeah, it's far no matter who you are, no matter where it's located.  When we get that remark we all hate, "I don't even like to drive 100 miles", they're serious!  Driving 100 miles is even far!  Anytime after a run that I don't immediately desire a beer is a good sign that it was really far, or something is terribly wrong.  Western States was no exception.

Day before photo

The 5am start was normal for any ultra, but this particular day was my first ever Western States, and the start line was abnormally dramatic, and intoxicating.  It, at this precise moment became clear how much work, and time had gone into what I was about to endure; mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

As we started off straight up the mountain, then escarpment before the first of many downhills, I did my best to relax, focus on a decent heart rate, and find a groove.  Naturally, I started off in 30th or 40th place, not at all to my surprise.  In the first 20, I had the opportunity to chat with a few people, Anita Ortiz being one.  She was running a pace that seemed very reasonable to me, so we shared a few together while a few scurried past in quite a rush.  Anita was really kind, and humble.  I didn't even realize who she was until after a mile or so!  As it turns out, she won WS in 2009!

Somewhere down the trail I found my groove with my first sights set on Robinson Flat (mile 30), which is the first stop that I'd see my roommate/friend/training partner/crew/pacer Avery.  Already, I was passing a few people, and my legs felt pretty okay.  On the ~5 mile climb up to Robinson, the sun started heating up, and wouldn't let up until dusk.  I rolled into Robinson Flat feeling pretty damn good, and the hundreds of people cheering me on reminded me why Western States is "the big dance".  At this point, I took my shirt off, snagged my Eastern States 100 hat filled with ice, filled my pack with ice, got doused in ice water, and grabbed more gels.  First class service at Western, I must say.  Avery said he made it to the the aid just in time.  Sometimes things just work out!

After leaving Robinson, there is literally a loss of ~3500' in ~20 miles.  And these, these were the miles that left me thinking, "wow, they weren't kidding when they said this course never stops going down!"  On the descent into the canyon before the Devil's Thumb climb, I was amongst Michael Wardian, and a guy named Chris (I think.  We'll call him Chris no matter what).  At the bottom of the canyon, before beginning the ascent, I realized that I'd somehow lost my salt pills, or left them at the last aid station.  "Oh shit, I'm going to cramp all the way up this climb with the way I've been sweating".  Wardian saved my ass, as he carries two bags in every race.  He said that during Olympic Trials one year he ran out, or lost them, and suffered all the way to the finish, so now he always carries two bags.  Same goes for if you have to cross a river, with the chance of them getting wet.  Oh man, between that and observing him throwing his handhelds on his wrist for the climbs, I was like a sponge soaking in wisdom accumulated through years of experience.  That climb to the Devil's Thumb aid (mile 48) was brutal after all that descent.  Between the heat in the canyon, and the hardest climb of the day (in my opinion), all three of us struggled up that climb.  To me, the crazy part was that I lead Mike, and Chris to the top.  At some point my inner dialogue questioned "why are you ahead of Mike Wardian, and this other guy that is clearly a great runner?"  To this I had no explanation, and already didn't feel like thinking any more critically than I had to.  So, I just ate some popsicle, grabbed more ice for my hat and pack, and kept running.

Somehow after Devil's Thumb I managed to pull it together and got the legs moving on the next descent into El Dorado Canyon.  Avery and I had run this section during a training run, so I had a general idea of what to expect.  I pulled away from Mike and Chris on the climb into Michigan Bluff (mile 56), and felt good all the way up.  I cruised into the aid, which would be the first place I'd see my mom and sister.  Avery got me restocked, I changed my socks, and was off.  Again, hundreds of people cheering me on....let's just say the stoke was high.  I would see everyone again at Foresthill in 6 or 7 miles, which is where I'd pick up a pacer, Kyle, who I'd met the day before.  Kyle was in the middle of a Pacific Crest Trail through hike, and had decided to stop in Squaw Valley to check out the race.  We randomly started talking, and before you know it, I had a pacer from Foresthill to Green Gate (62-80) before Avery picked me up at Green Gate.

Rolling into Foresthill (goodness I am demanding)

The journey with Kyle was fairly productive, and fairly consistent.  Kyle did a great job of saying the right things at the right time, and not saying the wrong things.  Being a pacer can be ambiguous work.  Thanks for putting up with me Kyle.

Kyle and I working our way up to Green Gate
Going into the race, one of my main goals was to remain positive, and focus on not letting the negative take over.  Looking back on things a few weeks later, it's apparent that somewhere after 70 miles in is where this became difficult to maintain.  One of my most vivid memories is crossing the American River at 78 miles.  The sun was setting, but it certainly wasn't dark yet.  Somewhere on the descent to the river I'd decided that I would put on a shirt at mile 80, where I'd see my crew again, as it wasn't hot anymore.  An aid station volunteer, a sweet lady only trying to help, dumped ice in my pack right before crossing the river, which left me shivering and frustrated.  She definitely didn't mean any harm, but nonetheless I got cold, and had a self-pity fest from after crossing the river until the next aid only a couple miles away.  Regardless,  I made it to my crew, grabbed a shirt, my headlamp, some gels, then took off for the last 20; 20 of the best and worst miles of my life.

Avery and I about to leave Green Gate (mile 80)

Another major goal of mine going into WS was to have a strong finish, as I still hadn't achieved that in either of the other 2-100's I've completed.  After this one, I think I'm halfway there, but still haven't really nailed it like I have at a few other shorter races.  Looking at it objectively, I had about 10 good/strong miles, and about 10 not so good miles in the last 20.  Swearing at rocks is a good indicator that some negativity has thrust it's way into your sanity.

This video my sister took of Avery and I leaving Green Gate is simply hilarious.  "Dev, you're doing great".  BAM!  Trip over rock.

By Green Gate, I was mostly happy with my performance to that point, and was glad that I'd only have about 15 miles or so in the dark.  Immediately as we left it seemed as if Avery and I were out on a regular training run; chatting, and joking about this and that, and how there were so many good looking girls at this race.  You know, dude stuff.

Leaving Green Gate
He told me that my mom and sister were so proud with what I was doing, and can't believe it.  From the time the gun went off, I knew I could never quit with how far Lindsay and my mom had come to watch me run 100 miles.  Knowing that they were there for me was in the back of my mind the whole time.  For as much as I pick on my mom, she's taught me more about love, patience, and acceptance than anyone.  I still can't believe they flew all the way across the country for my selfish pursuits.  Totally insane.

After departing Green Gate, I'd see my crew one more time at the Highway 49 crossing (mile
93.5) before taking it across No Hands Bridge, climbing up to Robbie Point, then hitting a little over a mile of pavement before running around the Placer High School track to the finish.  However, it wasn't over just yet.

It's crazy how good some of those last miles were, and how absolutely horrible some of them were.  It had gotten to the point where I just wanted to be done, and every time that I stopped at an aid station my legs started tightening up, then I'd have to walk for a minute before being able to resume running. It's so frustrating, really.  I mean, I bet I had a few 7-9 minute miles in there, but also walked down a few hills because my legs were so trashed.  This is what I mean, halfway there.  An improvement for certain, but not perfection.

I must've been out of it at this point because Avery told me I was talking to Hal Koerner at an aid station, and he was filling my bottles.  "Dude, you really didn't notice Hal?  You were talking to him!"  "Nah man, I don't know what you're talking about."  "Wow."

Finally, at some point we reached Highway 49, and I was struggling pretty good, still fighting the battle of staying positive.  After bitching about this, that, and the other thing to Avery out on the trail, and reminding myself where I was, I did my best to fight those demons.  For example, my mom kept telling me to eat at every aid, even after slamming more gels than I'd like to admit.  This eventually made me grumpy.  See for yourself....hahahahah

The last 7 miles from Highway 49 to the finish were tough.  I knew I had basically made it, but had trouble mustering up the will to push hard.  And then, right before Robbie Point at mile 98.9, Mike Wardian goes cruising past me.  I couldn't freaking believe it.  "I thought I lost him miles ago!"  And Avery says, "Let's do this.  How amazing would it be to end your first Western States racing Mike Wardian around the track?"  Without saying anything, I start cranking it down the road, knowing that it was almost over.  I catch up with Mike and his pacer, and he starts sprinting away.  I chase, and end up running one of the fastest miles all day (probably about 6 minutes), in the last mile.  Coming around the track together, I finish less than 20 seconds behind Wardian.  It was pretty sweet  I'll take it.

Finishing my first Western States Endurance Run was one I'll never forget.  19 hours 11 minutes 52 seconds.  This year there were 371 starters, 254 finishers, with a 68.5% finishing rate, much lower than most years-not sure why.  To be blunt, my first go at the most prestigious, historic, and competitive 100 miler in the world was more than I could have asked for.  Sure, I want to eventually go back for a spot in the top ten, but overall I'm ecstatic placing 23rd overall, with Magdalena Boulet being the only woman to "chick me", running a 19:05.  It was an emotional finish, and I'm so grateful that I had some of my family, and my training partner Avery to share it with.

It's finally over

Thanks to all the first class volunteers, with first class aid stations for kicking so much ass.  Special thanks to those that laughed at my bad jokes, and cheesy sarcasm.  Thanks to Gordy Ainsleigh for believing that it was possible to traverse the Western States trail on foot in a day.  Thanks to all my family, especially my parents, and siblings.  Thanks to Kyle for pacing me on a whim for 18.  Thanks to all my friends near and far for all the encouragement.  Thanks Avery, who not only kicked ass for me all day, but also joined me in plenty of tough miles these past few months.  Lastly, my sister Lindsay and my mom Debbie came all the way from D.C. and Pennsylvania because they knew how much this race meant to me.  More than anything that happened the entire trip, the best part was getting to spend time with them.  Now that I've run away to Colorado, seeing my family has become much more of a challenge.  Though it was the best decision I've ever made, it still sucks being so far away.  I still haven't found the words to express my gratitude, as a simple "thank you" doesn't carry that kind of weight.  Anyways, it's so incredibly heartfelt, and rad that they showed up.  I couldn't have done it without them.  

Here are some photos from the trip (post-race)!

The crew on Lake Tahoe

Mum is ripping it up on Tahoe

You see this chest hair?  That's right...I'm so manly.

Avery, Mum, me

Lindsay and I

That's a good bench, right there

Lindsay and Mum