Sunday, May 30, 2010


For years now, I have been telling Vans that I "was going to do the Western States Memorial Day Training Runs." Of course, back then I was thinking I might do one of the 20 mile days, not the 32 mile day. This also was before I even had started running ultras. Back in the day, my "main event" was the annual CIM (California International Marathon) in December.

Oh how times have changed! On Saturday morning as I was driving up to Foresthill Elementary School I recalled an old "goal" of mine which was to do (gasp) 2 marathon in one year! Um, in the past three months alone I have run the marathon distance 4 times!!! Amazing how that happens huh?

Anyway, back to the day at hand, which was the Western States Memorial Day Training Day One. The total mileage was supposed to be 32 miles. However, with the amount of snowfall recently, the buses could not reach the destination point originally intended and instead, had to go about 5 miles lower. There was however, still a lot of snow on the ground!

Complete mayhem getting off the buses.

The day started off pretty well. I immediately found Pigeon when I arrived and later saw Captain Kirk, Miss P and Killer Kuni (he's killer only because he can climb a hill like it's no one's business) and Diane Cressey. I also saw some "legends" like Tim Tweitmeyer and Gordy Ansleigh.

Pigeon and I rode the hour bus ride together and chatted for a bit until I immediately fell asleep. I have a knack for falling asleep spontaneously in automobiles. When I woke we were just about at our drop off point. I had over dressed entirely. I quickly deposited my jacket in the race directors car (which I of course never remembered to retrieve) and we were on our way complete with smiles.

trailmomma smile? Check!

Pigeon smile? Check!

Note to self, ask someone
to take our photo next time

The first official sign of the day! BEGIN!

The first four miles we were told would be in snow. In some places as deep as twelve inches. We strategically placed ourselves at the back of the pack (who am I kidding, we were giggling too much) in order to let the snow get compacted by the faster front runners.

A long stretch of snow

Running on snow is a lot like running on sand in some ways. Your calves start screaming at you because you sink, slip, slide and are bouncing all over the place. I prefer running on snow than sand though. This was too much fun although you did waste quite a bit of energy trying not to fall the entire time.

Immediately upon starting I realized something was not quite right with me. My tummy had been gurgling almost the minute we unloaded. Still I trudged on as best I could. Then finally I told Pigeon I had to stop. This involved hiking up a snow bank to find a nice large tree. Luckily, Pigeon also had to stop. I was amazed to discover that in all her ultra running she has never peed outside!! Sorry to share that with world Pigeon but now you can say you've done it!

I did it!

We continued on our way realizing quite a few of our friends had passed us during that mini pit stop. Whatever. We're not racing. We were out for a good time on the trails.

We saw some pretty amazing views out there. Once we were off the snow the temperatures rose almost immediately. I was boiling and so thankful that I didn't hang onto that jacket I had earlier.

We had not gone much further when my tummy started rumbling again. I immediately thought today was going to be one of those days most ultra runners dread. However, I found a nice hollowed out tree to take care of business yet again, and that was the last I heard from my belly all day. Nice. However I had one minor issue at this pit stop that would prove to be the comic relief we'd need all day long. Whereas most ultra runners fall while running . . . trailmomma apparently falls while walking back from a potty break. I didn't just fall, I about tipped over into a big mushy, slimy hollowed out tree stump. Pigeon was kind enough to take a nice photo of that moment.

I've fallen and I can't get up!

Alas, we were off running again and giggling the entire way. We came across some strange artifacts while out on the trail. Items that no one ever mentioned to us before . . .

like an abandoned tractor!

and a strange delusional trailmomma!

Devil's Thumb was our first climb. In the Western States 100 it is mile 47.8 but many consider it "half way." I have been to Devil's Thumb before when working at an aid-station and I've climbed part of the way down. However, I was in no way ready for what we climbed yesterday. The climb starts much farther back after a real steep and rocky decent. It was on that down some where that I looked up for a brief moment and rolled my right ankle. I felt something snap but the pain was minimal. It would continue to bother me the rest of the run but it wasn't an issue.

We hit the bottom of the canyon before Devil's and had to cross a precarious bridge.

How can 5 runners equal 3 horses?

Needless to say that didn't stop more
than 5 runners from crossing at a time!

Climbing Devil's Thumb we passed a few of the slower people. We weren't running and we got passed ourselves but it was necessary to space out because it was just that brutal. You'd take a few steps, stop, look up and see that the climb just kept going, sigh and continue on your way. It was here, that my right knee really started to hurt. I am not sure if when I rolled my ankle something twisted in my knee as well but all I know is that the right knee would continue to be my biggest obstacle for the rest of the day. It was reminiscent of during my Way Too Cool training when my left knee would flare from IT Band issues and scream at me on the down hills. The only difference being, the right knee would hurt on the way up a hill and on the way down.

We approached the top of Devil's Thumb, it was mile 13-ish on our garmins. We were devastated that there wasn't an aid-station at the top. We were quickly approaching 15 miles and we hadn't had one real aid-station yet! My stomach was growling (with hunger) which was a sign I probably should have eaten earlier.
A blurry Devil's Thumb

Not many people realize that Devil's Thumb isn't named for the brutal climb but for the odd shaped rock at the top that looks like a thumb.

Finally, at Deadwood we saw the aid-station, mile 15. We stuffed our faces and downed multiple cups of sweet heavenly Coke.

After leaving the aid-station, we noticed that we often were alone on the trail. Occasionally a few runners would come up from behind but for a long time, we were alone. The Pigeon and I never spent a lot of time at the aid-stations. We noticed that some people would spend quite a bit of time there.

We were often quiet for long stretches, I think both of us just mentally calculating how much juice we had left in our systems. We discussed how best to tackle the next big climb, Michigan Bluff, the largest climb yet.

That is a map of the entire Western States course. That ginormous dip in the middle is bottom before the climb up Michigan Bluff. This climb took us well over an hour to complete. We decided before the climb we'd each take a Gu and and SCap. Boy did that help, but still, the climb didn't seem to ever end. Here we met up with Killer Kuni again and Diane Cressey. We had been told that the next aid-station wasn't far, however we soon learned that wasn't exactly right. It was still quite a ways off.

Long stretches of the trail were often in the dead sun, as you can see above. I have to say I have very interesting tan lines after yesterday's adventure.

We finally reached the top. It was definitely hot out but the views were still killer. Upon reaching the top however, you enter into a residential neighborhood.

Reaching the next aid-station was heaven. I saw Mo Bartley and she quickly filled my hydration pack which was nearing empty. They also had ice at this aid-station which was just awesome. I heart ice.

Again, we didn't stay too long. We could feel that we were pretty close to the end. I believe this last aid-station was at about mile 23 or so. We had been counting down the miles since we had hit mile 20. We were thankful that we'd only be running 28 and not the scheduled 32.

As we were flying down yet another steep decent, we ran into a runner. He was quite friendly and fairly new to trail running. He told us that he was doing both the first and second day of the training runs held this weekend. Impressive. We warned him that the next day's run would involve a river crossing. He wasn't happy to hear that and then quickly disappeared.

The next thing we know we saw this:

Our very own river stream crossing!

As you can see above, those people decided not to use the rope. That current was pretty strong and I didn't want to risk slipping so I used the rope and went first.

Followed by Pigeon . . .

That water was C-O-L-D but man did it feel awesome. If the current had not been as strong, I might have stopped a bit longer and really submerged my bum knee. The water level didn't quite hit the spot that was killing me.

After this it was another big climb. After Devil's Thumb we caught on that any type of decent would be followed by a long brutal climb.

We stopped for another photo session before the climb.

And it was around this point that this trailmomma became a Whiney Wilma. I am not sure how Pigeon tolerated my moans, whines and complaints. By this time my knee was d-o-n-e as that last decent had just about shredded anything it had left and the impending climb didn't make it feel any better.

Introducing Whiney Wilma

This final climb was a mix of gravel road and pavement. Very reminiscent of the Damn Hill climb at AR50.

Pigeon tried her best to get me to run and I did shuffle from time to time but mostly I just wanted to walk. We eventually made it to the top and saw the Foresthill street sign and knew that we were less than a mile to the finish.

The long road back to the finish is flat but my knee was rejecting any surface at this point. It would give way a couple of times and I had very obvious limp to my gait. Pigeon was awesome, she just kept me moving.
At the finish! Yeah!

I have no doubts Pigeon
will run the WS100 some day.

When we arrived at the finish we quickly checked in and hit up the beverage table. It was extremely warm and sunny out. I immediately jumped in line for one of the free massages at the end hoping that perhaps my right IT was the reason behind all my knee pain. As it turns out, the therapist said my right IT felt absolutely fine. Not the news I wanted to hear but the massage felt good all the same.

Pigeon had to jet home as she was scheduled to get an awesome massage from Lily. When I arrived home I found the Peanut and Vans finishing up dinner. I was instructed to shower and grab my bike helmet. Having left Vans alone with the Peanut for over 12 hours today I couldn't really deny his request. So, on the bike I climbed and off we rode as a family around the neighborhood.

The ride wasn't too bad actually, it helped to loosen up some muscles and it was totally worth it because we ended up stopping . . .

Mmmm, frozen yogurt! Our favorite!

I am still amazed that I actually ran a big chunk of the Western States Trail. I can check that off my "wish list" and am already thinking that perhaps next year I might try Day 2. My favorite part of the entire day was the amazingly beautiful pine smell that surrounded you as you ran. The views were breath taking and the people running along side you were friendly and supportive.

I will say that it has made me realize that if I ever decide to run Western States it won't be in the near future. That run deserves respect and lots of training time. With the Peanut as young as she is, I don't have the time to commit to something so big and so challenging. I can see how this run is half physical and half mental. Being out there for over 24 hours requires more dedication than I have at this time.

For now, I am done with long trail runs. My blog may suffer from this but I have decided to stop going the distance for a while and focus on some road runs. I have a half in June and really, I am looking forward to spending the majority of Saturdays with my family and not out on the trail.

I think Vans would be happy with that decision. He told me yesterday that he was proud of me (and worried that I wasn't home sooner). He had a rough day with the Peanut since she is at that age where "no" is pretty much the most popular word in her vocabulary. That didn't stop him from putting her to work yesterday though . . .

Washing Daddy's car!


  1. I had a great time, still laughing randomly at your "fall". It was a great day!!!

  2. Wow, what an intense, scenic and inspirational run!! You are a woman after my own heart going into a hallowed out tree and doing your business. That Western States is no joke, but i bet you will do it someday...

  3. I loved reading this, great report, but oh my, what a killer run!! Still very proud of you and am so happy that part of your dream was realized. :) Love the pic of the Peanut.

  4. Glad you enjoyed your 1st trip tp the "Canyons". They are always an exciting run. Rest up because I need to get up there myself in a few weeks.


  5. Awesome! You rock! I did day 2 and I'm still crying (whining). Now to go give my 2 cents of yesterday's run on the blog.

    Congrats on completing Day 1 - you're amazing!

  6. Great job, Pam!!! That trail looked beautiful. I really don't think anything beats the scenery out West. Gorgeous. Not only did you run part of the WS route but you had fun doing it and to me that's what is important. Rest up that knee and hope you are having a great recovery day!

  7. Great RR Pam, sounds like you girls had a blast out there! I love the pics :) Enjoy your much deserved break from the trails...but...the TRT training run 26 miler is just around the corner and looks to be another epic one :))

  8. Congrats on your awesome run! What an accomplishment.