10 Things I Did Wrong at Western States

As I recounted in my three previous posts, my Western States race included 71 really good miles and 29 (or at least 20) unbelievably bad miles. So what went wrong? I’m not exactly sure, but I do have some ideas. Here they are:

1) I didn’t change my socks or shoes during the race. For the record, I’ve never changed my socks or shoes during a race (I heard Kaci say the same thing on URP). However, this time, I should have. There was so much grit everywhere, and my feet were ultimately my downfall. Next time, I’m planning several sock/shoe changes.

2) I spent too much time obsessing about my pee. As you know, it was over 100 degrees for much of the day. When it’s that hot, you don’t pee a lot, and your pee is… weird. At one point near Cal-2 (70 miles or so), I decided I needed to stop and drink because my pee was way too dark. The funny thing is, I wasn’t that thirsty and I was still moving well. In retrospect, I should have kept moving. I broke my momentum and I never got it back.

3) I didn’t stay focused. I was running so well for much of the day. However, right around the time I started obsessing about my pee is when I saw Yiou Wang on the ground in a somewhat distressed state. I think it rattled me a little and threw me off my game.

4) I wasn’t always able to find my people. I ran about 50 miles on and off with Clare Gallagher and we were rolling. However, we became separated at one point, and I never quite got into a groove with anyone else out there. Misery loves company, and when it’s 100 degrees, it’s always good to have a sidekick (or be a sidekick).

5) I didn’t preview the course. I live in New York and it just wasn’t feasible for me to travel to CA to preview the course. With that being said, I may have underestimated the terrain a little bit. Nothing quite compares to experience.

6) I didn’t practice math. My plan was to take in 300 calories an hour. And I did. Right up until I didn’t. Ironically, I could still eat. I just didn’t want to because I was cranky and my race had gone to shit. However, by doing so, it is likely that I compounded the problem.

7) I maybe could have used more support. My friend, Laura, crewed and paced me. She also helped with things like dropping off a car at the finish line. Basically, she did a three-person job. I’m sure it was stressful for her, and it may have caused unnecessary stress for me.

8) I didn’t eat enough real food. This goes along with number six. I did eat some real food at the aid stations – fruit, pretzels, etc. I’m vegan, so selection was a little limited. However, when things started to go south, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to take in something a bit more substantial.

9) I may have gotten a little starstruck. For 70+ miles, everything was aces. Coming into Foresthill, I had already passsed Kaci Lickteig and Mike Wardian and I was closing in on Thomas Lorblanchet, who I would pass shortly. Everything was clicking. But I was also a little shocked, a little starstruck and maybe a little delirious from the heat. See number three – stay focused!

10) I wasn’t ready. Unfortunately, this one is out of your control. When I applied to the Western States lottery, i figured I was looking at a three or four year wait, maybe more. And then… my single ticket got picked. Welp! Nobody was going to throw me a pity party, so I had to give it my best. With that being said, I only had one hundred under my belt, and it was in no way comparable to my 50k and 50m results. In addition, my training had been hampered by a bizarre injury at Traprock 50k. Next time, I’ll be ready!

I hope this helps you in your journey to Western States – cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Western States Race Report (Part 3 of 3)

“Sometimes when you are not careful trying to set off fireworks, you light yourself on fire.” – Jim Walmsley, after he dropped at Western States

I was never going to run 14 hours or break any records. That is a fact. However, in a way, everyone that toes the line at a race is Jim Walmsley. We are all trying to get as close to the edge as we can without going over.

At Western States, I danced along the edge for over 70 miles. I was that close. And that far away. In some ways, I’m happy, because the first 70 went better than I expected. In other ways, I’m disappointed, because the last 30 was more of a train wreck than I could have anticipated. With that being said, I didn’t go to Western States to run 23:59. I went to run as fast as I could run on that day in those conditions. It didn’t work out. With that being said, I have no regrets about the way I approached the race, and I will be back.

10 Things About Western States:

1) The elites are so approachable and supportive. Ryan Sandes. Hal Koerner (working the aid station at mile 91). Stephanie Howe Violett. Meghan Arbogast. The list goes on.

2) For a downhill course, there sure are a lot of uphills.

3) The views from in the canyons – miles 45 and 50 – wow!

4) It’s worth it. BUT – so are other races. Venture out. It’s a pain in the ass to get into Western. See what else is out there.

5) If you watch one thing today, watch this.

6) The volunteers at Western are amazing. For those 30 hours, they truly care about you and treat you like family.

7) The swag is impressive. The race is expensive but you get a historic course, unbelievable volunteers, a shirt, socks, a hat, a buckle (if you finish), a buff, gaiters, etc.

8) It is what it is. If you’ve seen Unbreakable, Life in a Day, etc., you have some idea what it’s all about. I think those movies are pretty authentic.

9) You have to want it. Just like any hundred, if you are just doing it to do it, you will not make it to the finish line.

10) When people say “See you in squaw,” sometimes they mean it! I ran (no pun intended) into friends Ralph and Charles, and Charles captured some great video of me at the race! Check it out here and here.

Here are some splits from the race:

Full results from Western States are available here.

Any questions about Western States?

That’s it! Have a great week!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Western States Race Report (Part 2 of 3)

If you read Part 1 of my race report, you know things were going really well. I had reached mile 70.7 in 33rd place. I had passed runners like Mike Wardian and Kaci Lickteig, and I was going back and forth with Thomas Lorblanchet. As I pointed out in Part 1, the heat was acting as an unbelievable equalizer.

Unfortunately, the heat caught up with me a bit at Cal-2 (70.7 miles). I took a seat at the aid station and started drinking and eating. I wanted to get my hydration in order as quickly as possible. The next 7+ miles to the river were challenging. Laura and I were run/walking, but at least we were still moving at a reasonable pace. It was dark at the river. We crossed in a boat and hiked up to Green Gate (mile 79.8). I was still in 40th place, but the wheels were starting to come off the bus.

My hydration was okay, but I was hot and low energy. More than anything, my feet were really hurting. I had to stop a couple of times on the climb to Green Gate just to catch my breath and try to refocus. The worst was yet to come.

The hike to Auburn Lake Trails (mile 85.2) was grueling. My feet hurt a lot and I was basically falling asleep while still trying to move forward. It was around this time that Mike Wardian passed me back. We finally got to the aid station and I told Laura I was taking a nap. Laura looked at me and I could read her mind – “Umm, is that a good idea?” We reached a compromise where I would eat some soup and she would let me sleep for 20 minutes. Win win? Or was it a lose lose? Either way, I got up and I limped out of the aid station. Ouch! Also, while I was sleeping, Kaci came through the aid station and created quite a buzz. She was having a rough day, but nobody should question the Pixie Ninja’s toughness!

By the time we reached Quarry Road (mile 90.7), I was in 100th pace. It was getting light outside, and I was totally spent. The goal was to keep moving forward – and Laura kept me on it – but it was going soooo slowly. The last three aid stations eventually came, despite my 25 min/mile pace.

As we were going up the last major climb, Yassine Diboun came by performing pacing duties for one of his runners. Yassine is one of those people that can lift your spirits in any circumstance. We hit a residential neighborhood, and in a few minutes, we could hear the announcer at the track. And then there it was. I started a slow jog on the track and Laura let me take the last straightaway solo. I finally – and I mean finally – crossed the finish line in 27 hours and 14 minutes.

It was not the outcome I was hoping for. I missed my A, B and C goals, but I did get a finish. I definitely earned that buckle the hard way, as so many people did.

I have a lot of thoughts about the race and experience, and I will share them in Part 3. In the meantime, know that it was a really good 70.7 miles, a really bad 29.5 miles and one day/night/day I will never forget.

Check back soon for Part 3!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Western States Race Report (Part 1 of 3)

I’m breaking down my race report from Western States into three parts. Part 1 will be the start to 70 miles. Part 2 will be 70 miles to the finish. Part 3 will be my reflections on the race. With that being said, here goes!

There is a lot of hype around Western States. It is the oldest 100-miler in the world and it’s the most competitive. It does not have the laid back feel of most ultras. On Friday, there was race check-in, as well as a mandatory meeting. There were so many stories leading up to this year’s race – the snow, the heat, the women’s field… and of course, Jim Walmsley.

After the pre-race hoopla, I grabbed an early dinner, and I actually managed a few hours of decent sleep.

Laura Kline, acting as my crew and pacer, and I headed over to the start a little before 4am. We ran into fellow Beast Coaster, Sarah Keyes.

Read up on her amazing journey to Western States here.

At 5:00am, the gun sounded and we were off up the escarpment. For those unfamiliar with the course, the first four miles climb about 2,500 feet to 8,700 feet elevation. A quick glance back over your shoulder provides you with an amazing sunrise over Lake Tahoe.

Simply put, the high country was a mess. Lots of snow during winter combined with lots of heat during spring created a mish mash of soft snow, collapsing snow bridges and mud. Everyone was falling. Everyone.

After several miles of that, the snow and mud became a bit more patchy. Still, I couldn’t wait to get out of the high country. As an added bonus, it already felt warm out.

At mile 24, I ran into Duncan Canyon and saw Laura for the first time. I was in about 40th place (out of 369 starters). I was doing well and looking forward to dropping down more in elevation (Duncan Canyon is still over 6,000 feet).

Leaving Duncan Canyon, runners are greeted by a long descent followed by a long climb. This takes you up to the first major aid station, Robinson Flat. At the aid station, I saw Lauren, Chris and Zach Miller (yes, the Zach Miller), who were crewing/pacing my friend Jared Burdick. They got a great pic of me cruising on some smooth terrain.

Eight miles later, I met up with Laura again. She was a rock star at the aid station. I also got a hand from my friend, Charles, who just happened to be at the race crewing/pacing Brian Rusiecki. I was in 40th place, and Laura gave me some really positive feedback. I left the aid station and headed toward the canyons with lots of energy.

At this point, I had been running with Clare Gallagher on and off for 40 miles. She was disappointed I wasn’t Ryan Kaiser but decided to stick with me anyhow (apparently, I look and dress like Ryan, because several people thought I was him lol). Clare and I ran down into the canyon together and stumbled across Stephanie Howe Violett having a rough moment. Clare went ahead and I hiked up to Devil’s Thumb with Stephanie. At the top, she was able to get assistance from Andy Jones Wilkins and Dave Mackey, and I took off for the next canyon. More on this later, but Stephanie would rally for a sub 23-hour finish.

I was feeling fresh as I headed down to El Dorado Creek – one of the hottest parts of the course in the heat of the day. The aid station volunteers told me the next day it was 97 degrees there when I passed through. They also told me that they ran into the aid station themselves before volunteering for a twelve-hour day. Wow.

I hiked out of El Dorado Creek feeling the heat but well within myself. I was using lots of ice and water, and I was taking in plenty of calories. I hit Michigan Bluff in 32nd place. At that point, my race could not have been going any better. I saw Laura for the last time before she would be joining me at mile 62 for pacing duties. I had already passed Kaci Lickteig (having a rough day), and heading toward Foresthill, I went by Mike Wardian. The heat was merciless.

When I picked up Laura, it was about 95 degrees. With that being said, one of the locals informed me it wasn’t that bad because there was a light breeze lol. Shortly thereafter, we came across Yiou Wang collapsed on the trail having a medical issue (she’s fine now). She was leading the race, and now her day was done. It was scary and another reminder the heat was taking no prisoners.

I started to become aware of my own hydration/heat issues. Laura and I were running well, but I felt a little off. I decided to stop briefly at Cal-2 to hydrate and cool off. It was mile 70.7 and I was in 32nd place…

Check back in the near future for Part 2!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Western States 100 Countdown…

The Western States 100-Miler is on Saturday. This journey started last October when I finished the Oil Creek 100. I earned a ticket into the Western States lottery, and a couple of months later, my name got drawn despite odds of about 1 in 40.

I take a pretty laid back approach to training, but with that being said, I’m a planner. Leading up to Western States, I wanted a 50k and a 50 miler under my belt. I got neither! At Traprock 50k, I faceplanted onto some rocks and I got pretty banged up. It resulted in a DNF. At Rock the Ridge a few weeks later, I was still bruised (physically and mentally), and it resulted in my second DNF in as many months.

Thankfully, things clicked back into place just in time, and I was able to resume training aggressively in mid-May. I had just enough time to sneak in a hard three-week block. I did just that, banging out weeks of 100 and 105 miles, respectively. I wrapped things up with a great race the following week at the Cayuga Trails Marathon. My training wasn’t perfect, but I suppose it never really is.

At Western States, I will be running in Wildhorse 3s. I’ve recruited my friend, Laura Kline, to take me through the last 38 miles. I will be fueled by Tailwind, Huma Gels, a ProBar or two and Clif Bloks. Vegan Power!

The Good:

  • Western States favors “runners” and I’m a runner
  • The trails are so, so nice, and we will be on the regular course, not a snow course (intense heat has melted much of the snow from the crazy winter in the Sierras)
  • I’m at or near my ideal race weight
  • I already have a hundred under my belt so I have an idea what it takes
  • This is the big dance. If there’s ever a time to leave it all out there, this is it.

The Bad:

  • It will cool off slightly for race day, but it will still be hot. 90+ in Foresthill and 100+ in the canyons 
  • The biggest hill here I’ve trained on is about 600 feet of elevation change top to bottom – will my quads hold up on the Western course?
  • Traveling long distances for races is tough!

The weather is a huge variable at Western States. This year, it will be about 50 at the start in Squaw Valley. It will be over 100 degrees at El Dorado Creek, but it should cool off to the low 90s by Foresthill. It will be hot but a little better than it could have been. We dodged a bullet because its scalding out there right now!

I’m really looking forward to this experience. I think I’ve got a good run in me.


I’m not going to be shy. Here are my goals:

A Goal: between 18 and 19 hours

B Goal: between 19 and 20 hours

C Goal: under 24 hours

I believe there is some tracking available on the Western States website.

Also, follow iRunFar on twitter here.

See you in Squaw!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cayuga Trails Marathon Race Report

The Cayuga Trails Marathon was Saturday. It was my last race until Western States, which is in 20 days.

My training has been a rollercoaster since I fell at Traprock. I DNF’d that day and I DNF’d a few weeks later at Rock the Ridge. With that being said, everything clicked back into place a few weeks ago and I knocked off a 100-mile week followed by a 105-mile week. I think I lost some speed due to a lack of speed workouts during the month I was injured, but I still managed to maintain a good level of fitness.

A quick scan of the start list revealed four tough names I’d have to reckon with: Aaron, Rich, Gabe and Alistair.

We started at 8am and Gabe was off the front within a mile. I was content to be in a chase pack, and Aaron and Rich joined me. Alistair chose to run solo just a bit back.

The course was in great shape considering all the rain in May, and not much changed over the next twelve miles. At that point, we hit a road section and Rich dialed it up a bit. I went with him and Aaron was only a step behind us.

At that point – around 12 miles – we hit my favorite part of the course. The descent into Buttermilk is about 750 feet of elevation loss over two miles, but it includes a pretty sharp drop at the end. I took it hard, and at the bottom, Rich and I went by Gabe. All of a sudden, we were one, two.

Coming out of Buttermilk, Gabe rallied hard and moved back into first. Rich went relatively hard and gapped me a bit. I kept moving but I was definitely having a little  rough patch. After a road crossing and a short singletrack section, I caught back up to Rich and we plodded through some ankle deep mud together. I lost a shoe for the second time. It happens. It only took a few seconds to retrieve it. Somewhere around mile 16, we caught Gabe again. Rich and I took over one, two once again.

We ran together to the Underpass aid station at mile 19ish. Crossing back into Treman Park, we stayed together a couple more miles. Around mile 21, I thought Rich was having a rough patch and I made a move. I climbed hard and I gapped him a bit. I kept pressing the next few miles and I (naively) thought I had lost him.

Around mile 25.5 or so, I glanced back and Rich was coming quick. I tried to respond and my legs sputtered. He went by me with about two tenths to go and cruised to victory. I was second, thirteen seconds back. I was closing in 5:45ish pace, but it was no match for the 5:20ish pace that Rich was pressing. Aaron came in third a short while later followed by Alistair in fourth.

I’m super happy with my effort and it was great to share some miles with Rich and Aaron. Cayuga Trails always involves a great bunch of people. Fantastic race director, awesome course, excellent athletes, amazing volunteers. I highly recommend this race if you are looking for a challenging marathon or 50-miler.

We finished in about 3:47. This year, the marathon course boasted 4,500+ feet of elevation gain/loss.

Results are available here.

Click here for some great video – proof that it really happened, courtesy of Ron Heerkens, Jr. and Goat Factory Media Entertainment.

20 days until Western States!!

Did you race this weekend?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

I’m not panicking… yet.

Rock the Ridge 50-Miler was on Saturday. I was worried about this race, because my running has been off since a fall at Traprock 50k three weeks ago. My biggest issues have been my ribs, which got banged up pretty badly, and my left leg, which took the brunt of the fall.

Rock the Ridge has a 6am start and it was a (relatively) warm and misty morning. After a few instructions from the race director, we were off. I started off pretty casually. My plan was to run 8-minute miles or so and get an idea of where my leg was at. Initially, it worked out rather well. I moved into first place around mile two, and I was able to run with a very consistent effort for several hours. With that being said, my gait was noticeably off, and I had at least some pain almost from the start.

I hit the halfway mark of the race in just under 3:20, which is just a tiny bit quicker than 8-minute miles. By this point, I was compensating badly for my left leg, which had basically no push-off on the climbs and was buckling a bit on the descents. Time to pull the plug. I walked/hobbled to the next aid station, which was at 26.8 miles, and called it a day. I was in first place when I made the call. A very frustrating day to say the least. A super nice park ranger named Roger drove me back to the start, and the race director delivered me to my car – talk about VIP service?!

Okay, positives first. (1) I ran about a marathon before my body threw in the towel. (2) My gear, nutrition and hydration were perfect. (3) I got to run some beautiful “trails” (carriage roads or fire roads). Now the negatives. (1) Fuck. Western States is 7 weeks away and my body is broken. (2) see number one.

Things were okay… until they weren’t.

My plan is to take an easy week, which was on my schedule anyhow, and get my leg looked at. Needless to say, this is frustrating.

Posted in Races (Before & After), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments