I don't expect a whole lot of sympathy for a 19:10 4th place finish at Western States, but after running an 18:37 in a lot higher temps, I think it is fair to say my race didn't go as I had hoped. I openly stated that my goal was 18:11. It may have been aggressive to aim for a time that would be the 5th fastest women's time on the course, but I am not one to set "soft" goals or say things like "I just want to finish" when everyone knows that is a load of crap. I am not afraid to set goals that I may not attain, yet, at the same time, I really felt I had that time in me. Last year's run felt very conservative both in the beginning and at the end and the cooler temps should've made a big difference. And I was fitter, stronger, and leaner for this year's race.
But things were off from the get go. Last year, I felt like I floated up to the escarpment. This year, it seemed like I was working too hard from the beginning. My legs just didn't have the usual ready-to-go feeling after coming off a big taper. In the high country, I had the pleasure of running with Kaci and Larissa, but I wasn't comfortable. That's big trouble to be uncomfortable less than ten miles in to a 100 mile run! I knew I had to run my own race and backed off a bit to let Kaci and Larissa get ahead, but when I got to Duncan Canyon (mile 24) in 4:12, I was not a happy camper! Even when I took 29 hours to finish WS, I got there in 4:09. Last year, I was there in 4:09 and I felt like I was out for a walk in the park.
"I am running 20 hour pace!" I whined to my crew. Fortunately, Dennis is Mr. Optimism and he was like, "three minutes, big deal, you can make that up, sunshine, rainbows, flying pink ponies." Fortunately, my head was SO on task and I ticked off everything I needed at the aid station- chug a soda, new bottles, hand held with ice, sunscreen, sunglasses, Vaseline, Chapstick and a few sponges of water on the neck- and I was out of there pronto.
I love, love, love Duncan Canyon, the climb to Robinson Flat and Little Bald Mountain. Along with Volcano Canyon, this is my favorite part of the course. I had a strong split here last year, and ran the exact same time this year and was still only three minutes off last year's time. My legs still felt weak on the climbing, but I seemed to be chugging along ok. Hmmm, maybe this wasn't too bad after all. Again, I felt calmer than ever at the AS and got everything taken care of according to game plan. I chugged up Little Bald Mountain, but then my legs were just hurting on the downhills and the flat roads were pathetic. My gait was stiff, my legs were sore, and still I was breathing so dang hard even on the downhills. Tropical John Medinger was about a half mile out of Dusty Corners, but I was so embarrassed by how I was running that I don't even think I looked at him. And when I saw my crew, the tears just started.
|Robinson Flat - looking better than I feel (ph: Ally Speirs)
At Last Chance I got a nice "car wash" from the awesome volunteers before heading off to the canyons. Craig Thornley was there and again, I was ashamed that I wasn't running up to expectations. But I seemed to be doing ok on the downhills and decided to push through the canyons. I know I still wanted to make up time. Crossing the North fork of the American River was awesome! I am not sure I want Swinging Bridge repaired after that! I felt refreshed and ready for the climb. Even on my best days, the climb to Devil's Thumb is a hike. I seemed to be moving ok, but again, I just felt so tired and I was breathing so hard. Joe Uhan was at the top offering sage advice and race updates. It was good to see a friendly face, because I needed all the perking up I could get.
|Last chance "car wash" with a very excited Craig Thornley. ;) (ph. Allen Lucas)
|Me at Michigan Bluff: "My uphill legs are shit!"
Ken (Denise Bourassa's awesome S/O): No problem, there's only downhill left.
Me: I think my downhill legs are shit, too!
|Kisses from the kids at Forest Hill (ph:April Smith)
|Leaving Green Gate. I dropped my pacer! Ok, he is just at the AS still. (ph. Rob Goyen)
|It's blurry, but if you look carefully, both feet are off the ground in my finishing "kick". ;) (ph. Rob Goyen)
One mile into the race, I saw Gary Gellin just up ahead of me. We had done a bit of trash talking before the race and I thought I would say hi. He greeted me back and added, "Are you practicing your fake orgasm or something? You are breathing way too hard this early in the race!" I backed off a bit because he was right; I was working hard from mile one of the race. At the time I thought his comment was just a funny joke, but now it seems like a metaphor for the whole race: I went through all the right motions, I was hot, sweaty and breathing hard, but in the end I didn't get what I was looking for and I left completely unsatisfied.
I told at least three dozen people that I was going to take next year off from Western States, "no matter what." It turns out I was prepared to lose, but not to have a bad race and I am not ready to go out on a bad note. I'll be back at WS next year for another shot, wearing my F4 proudly. And after that, I'll take a year off Western States, no matter what...maybe. ;)
Thank you, Mac and Dennis for being my super team. Thanks Mom and Dad for watching the kids and coming out to the race with them (BTW we'll be visiting the last week of June again next year). And thank you to La Sportiva, Ultimate Direction and Injinji for you support.