Monday, July 16, 2012

Western States 100 - 2012 Experience! Part II

In Part I of my WS 100 post, I had just led a couple of my BRS friends on a near 17-mile journey that put us 2 miles away from our drop car.  It was an awesome day of trail running, but it gets better!

Dave Boudreau flew out on the Wednesday before the race.  We agreed to meet up in Auburn at the Starbucks.  (Yes, the Starbucks in Auburn, again.  I don't actually drink Starbucks, but it seems to be a good location to meet if you're from out of the area.)  Dave wanted to get a look at the Rucky Chucky crossing and the Green Gate area where we would be meeting up on race day.

As he walked up to my truck, I realized that he was quite a bit taller than me.  I was mildly concerned that I might have trouble keeping up with his long-legged stride.  Then I thought again - during the race I wouldn't see him until he had run nearly 80 miles.  

Dave and I headed down to "Green Gate" and parked the car.  We headed off down the trail - a long nearly 2 mile drop to the American River.  Once at the bottom, we wandered around a large open area near the river trying to determine where the crossing would be made.  We did a little more wandering, a little bush wacking, looking at deep water, and trying to determine if there was any sign of a trail on the rugged cliff faces across the river.   Apparently, we had missed a smaller trail that branched off of the dirt fire road about quarter mile from the bottom of the hill.  Up we went, and then back down toward the river again, this time on the correct trail. We found the crossing, but the access was very overgrown with thorny blackberry bushes on our side of the river. (I don't know for sure, but I'm sure Dave was hoping that would be cleared for race day.)

Satisfied with the scouting of Rucky Chucky, we headed back up toward the car.  The temperature had risen a bit more and I was sweating profusely now.  I was glad I had brought my hydration pack instead of just my water bottle.  I was sucking the cool water down pretty steadily.  We made it back to the car and then continued down the trail from Green Gate.  We only checked out the first couple miles due to time constraints and headed back to the car again.  Even though I had just been in the area a couple weeks back, it was real now - I'd be here in a couple days running the course through the night.  SO COOL!

On the way back to my truck in Auburn, Dave and I chatted a little about race strategy.  However, we mostly just chatted about stuff other than running - kids, work, and life in general.  We parted in Auburn knowing that the next time we'd see each other would be during the race.

The night before the race, I meticulously went over my gear.  I wanted to be sure I had everything in order.  I also wanted to attempt to get some decent sleep because once I woke, it would be almost 24 hours until I slept again.

Before tucking my son in bed that night, I tried explaining what Dave was going to do and how what my part would be.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  "Tomorrow morning, before you wake up, Dave is going to start running.  Then we will wake up, eat breakfast, and go to swim practice.  Dave will still be running.  After practice, we will come home and you will get ready to go visit your cousins.  Dave will still be running.  Then I will eat lunch.  Sometime after lunch, I will start my 2 hour drive to where I will meet Dave's crew.  And Dave will still be running.  Then after you get home, eat dinner, and get ready for bed, Dave will still be running.  After you go to bed and fall asleep, I will meet up with Dave, who has been running this whole time.  Then, Dave and I will run all night.  Hopefully, we will finish before you wake up."
My son:  "Wow!  How do you do that?"

Me:  "I have no idea, but I'm going to find out."
The next morning went pretty much as described above.  I headed out to Auburn, stopped off at an REI to grab an extra Shot Bloks and a Heed packet.  I met up with Dave's wife and sister a little after 3 p.m. at the finish line at Placer High School Stadium.  We headed out to Michigan Bluff where Dave was due in about 5:30 p.m.  We drove down the long windy road into Michigan Bluff arriving about 4:30.  We set up the chairs and hung around the busy road waiting for Dave's appearance.  There were a couple of girls running up and down the road hawking fresh lemonade and cherries - quite an industrious couple of kids with a captive audience of hundreds of hot and thirsty race crews.

Me hanging around at Michigan Bluff

While we waited, I tried to lay down on a towel and nap.  Sleep wouldn't come.  I wasn't tired and frankly I was started to get amp'ed up for my entrance into the race.  It was a good thing I didn't doze off though.  Dave came running into Michigan Bluff (55.7 miles) just after 5 p.m., nearly a half hour early.  We chatted briefly as Dave switched out some of his gear and finished eating a sandwich and chicken broth.  He was looking and feeling good.

Dave arriving at Michigan Bluff walking with Crew Boudreau.
Dave and his Sis

Changing out gear.
We bid Dave farewell as he headed out from Michigan Bluff and hiked back up the short hill to the car.  We sped off toward Foresthill to meet him in another hour and a half.

Foresthill is an amazing place.  The number of people and cars just boggles the mind.  After all, this is a foot race not the NFL, NBA, or MLB.  There are so many people and crews cheering on each and every runner coming through.  I had the privilege of volunteering as a greeter at Foresthill last year guiding runners through the aid station and getting whatever food and/or drinks they needed.

We lucked out and found a place to park right near where runners enter Foresthill Aid Station.  However, we ended up setting up camp on the other end of the aid station so we could tend to Dave after he came out of the station.  While we had the time, I thought it best to change into my running clothes.  After Foresthill, I would be dropped at the Green Gate shuttle.  So, I swapped out my clothes and headed over to our little plot of land we had staked out.

In a good mood as he arrives at Foresthill Aid Station

As we were lounging around with the other crews, we heard Dave's name being announced as he entered Foresthill.  Again, Dave had surprised us by arriving about 10 minutes early!  Dave had been shaving time off his pace all morning.  He was clearly in the 22 hour finish range now.  Dave changed out the gear he needed and picked up his headlamp.  The next time we would see him would be after dark. 

Finally, the time was drawing near for me to enter the race.  We headed out of Foresthill to head toward the town of Cool and the Green Gate shuttle.  We missed a turn or something on the way to Foresthill Bridge so we ended up back in Auburn pretty quick.  No worries, because we were not really that far from everything anyway.  We headed back out on Highway 49, past the quarry at the Highway 49 crossing/aid station (where Zap, Rob and I were supposed to come out on our scouting run).  A quick stop at the gas station in Cool (along with a pit stop for me - I was fully hydrated now for the run) and we were off to the shuttle.

We pulled into the parking lot about 7:30 p.m. and I swapped out my shirt for a compression shirt and short sleeved shirt to go on top, as it was getting a little chilly now.  The ladies wished me well and headed off to eventually meet us at the Highway 49 crossing. They also told me to call if I needed anything in the time leading up to starting off on the run.

This is where things got a little dicey for me.  When we had pulled into the parking lot there was a shuttle waiting.  By the time I got my gear situated and walked over to the shuttle stop, the bus had left on a run down to the end of Sliger Mine Road.  The race official made an announcement about the bus.  The driver had been shuttling crews for 5 hours without a break and was rightfully a bit cranky.  The second bus had never materialized to relieve the load.  He asked us to be overly polite and thankful to the driver.  No problem.  Crews with runners that had left after 6 p.m. were asked to try and allow crews from 5 p.m. runners access to the bus, since it was taking about 4 hours for runners to make the trek.  Again, no problem.

The bus pulled back into the lot about 8 p.m. and offloaded all of the returning crews from the bottom of the hill.  After the last person stepped off the bus, the doors shut and the bus drove off to the other side of the parking lot and shut off its motor.

Umm. . .  excuse me???

Apparently, the driver decided it was break time.  This caused a bit of a panic among the crews and pacers that had been waiting for about a half hour already.  Crews and pacers with runners that had come through Foresthill around 5 and were not queued up to catch the next bus became almost frantic as the possibility of their runner passing through Green Gate without their crew was fast becoming a reality.

A note of clarification about Green Gate - As I have described in my previous post, Green Gate is about 10 to 15 minutes of driving a long, narrow, windy, 1 1/2 lane road.  Once at the bottom of the paved road it is a good 15 to 20 minute walk down a dusty, rocky fire road to the actual "gate".  On race day, no crew cars are allowed at the bottom of the road - there is simply no place to park.

The race officials were at a loss.  They were not sure exactly what to do.  After about 15 minutes, the race officials started shuttling pacers only down to the bottom in their personal vehicles.  Other crews started doing similar things - driving down crew members or pacers loaded down with all the gear.  They would return to the lot with the car in hopes to catch up with the crew shortly after once the bus started running again.

After the race officials had left on their second run to the bottom, it was approaching 9 p.m.  Now crews for runners who had left Foresthill at about 6:30 p.m. were getting antsy, including me.  Not long after the bus had shut down, I noticed that my cell phone had once again lost reception leaving me with no way to contact the rest of our crew.  One other pacer and I were talking about how much time we had left to get to the aid station when the bus engine roared to life.  It pulled up to the line and I was the first to hop on.

Even though I was ON the bus, I was seriously getting nervous about missing Dave at Green Gate.

Part III coming soon...

No comments:

Post a Comment