Thursday, July 3, 2014

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race

If you’re friends with me on facebook, you probably already recognize those words.  Justin had his SECOND 100 mile race last weekend.  I’ll give you a minute to process that and wonder what on Earth a human being would be running 100 miles for….

Ok so for the details-

This was his second 100 mile race.  His first one was in November 2013 and was called the Pinhoti 100 and the race covered the majority of the Pinhoti trail in Alabama.  I blogged about that race here.  This time, the race was in California.  Justin flew out a couple of days before me so that he could acclimatize to the elevation change.  The race was through the mountain ranges in California and there was lots of elevation changes.  Since the elevation in Alabama is basically sea level, he needed to get his body used to the changes in elevation before the race so that his lungs could do better.

I flew out to meet him on Friday.   Our favorite travel friends, Bonnie and Andrew, met us there from their home in Colorado.  Justin and his running buddy, Jeremy, picked us up at the airport.  Jeremy is in the same running group as Justin is-it’s called “Birmingham Ultra Trail Society” but is nicknamed “BUTS”.   Jeremy offered to come out to California to pace Justin during the race.  Let me explain pacing really quick. 

For these 100 mile endurance races, runners are allowed “pacers” after a certain mileage.  Basically that means that you can have a friend run with you for as long as you need it.  In the Pinhoti race, Justin had 2 pacers, our friend Rob and Justin’s brother-in-law, Aeron.  They were great during that race and extremely useful, but the downside was that they weren’t ultrarunners (and ultra runner is someone that runs over 26.2 miles).  For Pinhoti it wasn’t a big deal and Rob and Aeron definitely helped get him across the finish line within 27 1/2 hours.  But Western States is different.  The course is significantly harder and there were less aid stations that Justin could see his crew at.  Quick tutorial on aid stations-there are several spots throughout races like this where a group is there for whatever you need.  If you need more water, or your head covered in ice water, or food, etc….that’s what the aid stations are for.  During the Pinhoti race, I was the only person in Justin’s “crew” that went to all the aid stations to meet him.  I had everything he would need laid out for him.  I would replace his GUs, change his socks and shoes while he sat down, assisted him in changing shirts, hats, basically whatever he needed.  At Western States, they still had tons of aid stations, but crews could only access a handful of them.  Which meant that Justin was running a ton by himself with no familiar faces. 

This is why it was crucial to have another ultrarunner pace him.  Jeremy started running with Justin at mile 55.  You can imagine at that time that he was spent.  He needed someone to make decisions for him: tell him when to walk, when to run, let him know what his pace was, talk to him nonstop to keep him awake, and encourage the crap out of him so he wouldn’t quit.  Other ultrarunners know how it is and they know exactly what to do and what to say to keep you going.  Jeremy had already run two 100 mile races himself so he was definitely experienced and knew exactly what Justin needed and when he needed it.  Justin later told me that had Jeremy not been there, he was certain he would have quit because of how difficult the course was. 

Oh I forgot to mention, runners have 30 hours to complete the race and Justin finished in 29 hours, 35 minutes.  It was that close.  He hated it being so close to the cutoff too, but he did the best he could and between the elevation, the difficult trail, the lack of sleep and the fact that he started having some bad stomach issues that lasted from mile 10 until mile 100, he was just happy to finish. 

So anyway, here’s some pictures of the race:

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Justin and I woke up at 3:30am and I walked with him to the start line (that was literally feet from our hotel) to pick up his packet.  We came back to the hotel room to get Bonnie and Andrew and Jeremy and then we all walked to the start line around 4:30am together.


I think the final count was 390ish people from 25 countries that were doing the race.   Only 296 people finished the race though.  It was that hard.


This was at the start line.  See that gigantic mountain in the background?  Yeah the runners ran up that in the first 4 miles.  About 2,500 feet of elevation gain in four miles.  That’s like running straight uphill for hours folks.  INSANE.


This is Bonnie, myself and Jeremy.  We were on our way to the first aid station that we were allowed to go to which was mile 30.  We stopped at this cliff because it overlooked another aid station below it and we were just seeing if any runners had come through yet.  We loved our shirts too :)


This is where we were camped out at mile 30 aid station waiting on Justin to arrive.  There’s a lot of downtime being a crew member of these races.  You don’t have any cell service and even though there was a website that was tracking Justin and when he came into each aid station, it wasn’t updating very quickly and we didn’t have service to access it.  So we had a lot of waiting and wondering when he’d get there.

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And then he finally showed up and my nerves were much better.  We were expecting him a little sooner than he showed up but that was when he told us about his stomach issues and that they had been holding him back.


He had to get weighed in at each aid station to make sure he wasn’t losing too much weight.  There were definitely medical precautions in place to make sure these runners were being safe.  I think you were only allowed to lose about 5% of your body weight before they would pull you from the race.  At this 30 mile aid station, he’d lost about 2 pounds.


This is the aid station crew helping Justin out by filling up his water.  When he was done with their help, he came down to where we had camped out and were waiting on him.


We had a chair ready for him to sit in so that we could get everything ready for him.  He sits down at the aid stations at the beginning of the race, but once runners get towards the end, they won’t sit down because they know if they do, they won’t get up. 


Jeremy is taking off his shoes while I get baby wipes out ready to wipe down his feet for him.  Bonnie was getting his pack ready by removing any trash he had and stocking it with GU, sports beans, and other snacks.  After staying at this aid station for a whopping total of maybe 5 minutes, he got up and was off again.  We packed everything up and left to grab lunch and then to meet him at the next aid station at mile 55.


This is a screen shot of the online updates we got (when we had service at least).  Folks at home were able to use this website to check on his status and once we got to aid stations that had service, we used this to figure out when he would come into the station we were waiting on him at.

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These are of Justin coming into aid station at mile 55.  At this point, the sun was about to go down.  This was also when Jeremy changed clothes and put on his bib and started running with Justin.  Pacers had to wear bibs with their runners numbers on them.  Pacer bibs were yellow and runner bibs were white.

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This is Justin at the actual aid station stocking up on some food and getting weighed in again.  I think this aid station he was only down 1lb because he was drinking so much water.


So proud of my babe!  This is when he came to our spot and at this aid station he changed shorts and we stocked his pack with even more GU, sports beans and electrolyte pills.  He stayed for maybe another 5 minutes and then him and Jeremy were off.  Bonnie, Andrew and I had to walk kinda far to our car after this aid station because the shuttle that was taking crew to and from the aid station stopped running.  So frustrating.  But we made it back to our car and headed to the next and final aid station where we would see Justin that day, mile 62.

**These pictures are very dark because it was 10pm at night**


This is Justin and Jeremy at the aid station getting some food.

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First pic is of Justin and Jeremy walking from the main aid station to where we had stuff setup for them.  This was the last time Justin sat down.  I think he’s drinking chicken broth in that picture.


After mile 62, me and Bonnie and Andrew went to our hotel to go to sleep.  The plan was to meet them the next morning at mile 95.  Well, just like when I was crewing Justin at Pinhoti, I got like no sleep at all.  I was constantly rolling over to check his status via the website.  Once I saw them come through mile 80 at 4:30am, I called Jeremy to ask the status.  Justin did well overnight and even picked up his pace a bit so I waited about an hour and then texted Bonnie and told her to start getting up because they had starting running a little quicker.  We all got ready and got some breakfast on the way to the aid station.  We got to mile 95 and waited for them to show up. 


Jeremy was chowing down on some bacon from this aid station.  It was hard to sit next to them cooking this kind of food!  They had eggs, bacon, pancakes, various soups, etc.  Luckily at this aid station they actually had food for crews too.  I drank two big ole’ cups of hot chocolate while I was here because it was really cold when we got there but warmed up significantly in a pretty short period of time.

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A volunteer was helping out at the aid station after she was done pacing her runner so she helped Justin by filling up his water pack and putting it on for him.  He also got a “sponge bath” of ice water on his head by another volunteer.


They were probably at this aid station for maybe 3 minutes before they were off again!  We were originally planning to just go straight to the finish line to meet them but on the way to the 93 mile aid station, we noticed that we could probably get to the aid station at mile 96 so we drove there and waited for them.


We were glad we made it to this station because the views were GORGEOUS!


Making their way to the station.

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Maybe a whopping 2 minutes at this aid station and then they were off again!  There was one more aid station but we didn’t want to risk not getting to the finish line and finding parking so we skipped that one and headed straight to the finish line at 100.2!


Just like I did at the Pinhoti finish line, I bawled like crazy when he crossed the line.  Y’all have no idea the training and hard work he put into this race.  Time away from me, away from Carter.  It was very emotional.  He even told me he got emotion seeing me at the aid stations toward the end of the race. 



Getting that buckle!!!  So most races you get a medal at the end.  He did get a medal, but the pride and joy of 100 mile runners is the belt buckle.  He was devastated at Pinhoti when he crossed the finish line and I had to tell him that they didn’t make enough buckles and they would have to mail it to him.  This time, they had his buckle there and waiting for him!

We stayed at the finish line and waited for him to recuperate for a little while, but then he wanted to get to the hotel so he could attempt a bath and then lay in bed.  This is what a bath looks like after running a race that big:


He did the same thing for Pinhoti.  Since he was incapable of standing on his own two feet (you would be too if you ran 100 miles and hadn’t sat down in 30 hours) we had to put his chair in the shower and let him just sit in it to bathe.

It was an intense race and to be honest, it almost as much of an adrenaline rush for the crew as it is for the runner.  After letting Justin bathe and rest for a little bit, we got in the car and headed to San Francisco.  It was only a 2 hour drive from the start line so we decided to stay an extra day and explore San Fran!  Jeremy actually met up with one of his friends that lives in Sacramento and left with him after the race so we said goodbye to him and of course thanked the dickens out of him for his help to Justin.  We dropped off Bonnie and Andrew at their hotel (it was a different hotel than ours) in San Francisco and then went to our hotel.  We ended up not leaving because we were both so exhausted.  Justin was obviously more exhausted than me and he needed some sleep.  I will say though, I’ve never been that tired.  I’m 22 weeks pregnant and got about 7 1/2 hours of sleep between Friday and Saturday.  Once we ate a quick dinner in our hotel, I was asleep by 8pm and Justin fell asleep shortly after.

The next day we met up with Bonnie and Andrew again and explored the city. 


At breakfast the next morning.  I was IMPRESSED at how well Justin was getting around.  His feet still hurt, but he was fine.


This is called “the painted sisters”.  You probably recognize it as the home from Full House.


This is the crooked road, which is also famous, however I’d never heard of it or seen it, which surprised my friends and husband.

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And of course I had to take a belly pic :)

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After exploring the Golden Gate Bridge, we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf and explored Pier 39. 

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The last picture is at a beach and I honestly can’t remember which beach or where it was at.  Pretty sure it was close to the Golden Gate Park.

We flew home the next day.  Justin is shockingly fine y’all.  He clearly trained for this run much better than he trained for Pinhoti.  That’s not to say he isn’t hurting, because he is.  But to be up and walking around the next day was impressive to me.

So congratulations to my amazingly inspiring husband on completing his 2nd 100 mile race!!!


Renee said...

That is seriously amazing. I had never heard of a 100 mile race on foot. When you first posted about Pinhoti on IG in the fall, I thought it was a typo and maybe you meant 10 miles. Ha! Makes my 5k seem like nothing. Way to go, Justin!