Sunday, June 27, 2010

WS100 Pacing Report

I hope that I don't take anything away from Nick's report by posting this before his post goes up, but here's how the big day went down from my perspective.

I flew into Reno on Thursday night, met Scott Jaime at the airport and we headed to Tahoe where we joined a Pearl Izumi house full of runners - Nick Clark, Nick Lewis, Josh Brimhall, Ian Torrence, and everyone’s pacers and crew. Nick Pedatella would join us the next day to complete the Clark team. With the race just over a day away, everyone was pretty laid back, a far cry from how I usually feel before a big race. Ultras.

Friday AM we headed over to the race headquarters to pick up all the racer gear, get the pre-race photo, and get the racers weighed in. As expected, well known runners were all over, and that’s not just limited to the racers themselves - some of these guys had very accomplished runners in as their crew. We headed back to the PI house with everyone and Andy Henshaw and Brooks Williams came along and everyone got out for an easy 4 miles the day before the race. We headed back over to Squaw Valley for the pre-race meeting where they called the top contenders up for a quick introduction. I chatted with DCH a bit and she was very friendly and in good spirits, I really hoped that she’d have a good race. Everyone in the house kind of did their own thing for dinner and got to bed at a decent hour.
The racers woke between 3:00 AM and 3:30 AM on Saturday for the 5:00 AM start. Most of the crew and pacers got up at 3:45 AM. It would be a long day for everyone. Ian was the first to head out and the rest of us headed out about 4:15 AM for the short trip back to Squaw Valley. Walking around pre-race, we walked past one couple and the female said to the male, "that's the guy that won Bandera." The male replied, "yeah, and he's a really nice guy." I got excited and thought to myself, "that's my guy!"
They headed up in the darkness at 5 AM then without the need for headlamps thanks to the ski slope lights that lit the early morning sky. It wasn’t incredibly cold but was definitely chilly and most of us were surprised to see Tony already going shirtless.

As soon as they got off and running, Nick P and I headed towards Auburn, eating breakfast on the way out, and then out the curvy Mosquito Ridge Road to the Duncan Canyon aid station, mile 23.8, the first point where we’d be able to see Nick C. It was about a 2:45 drive out there and the Mosquito Ridge Road was so curvy that both Nick P and I felt carsick. We got out there about 30-45 mins before the lead runners started filing through. Tony, Geoff, and Kilian all came through together and Zach Miller, Hal Koerner, and Leigh Schmitt were all just a few minutes back. The three PI runners, Brimhall, Clark, and Lewis all came through a minute or so between each other in 7, 8, and 9. The chatter, which would build throughout the day, that Kilian wasn’t carrying water was starting to get momentum.

Nick’s wife and mother-in-law would get him at the Robinson Flat aid station, so Nick P and I followed Scott J and Brimhall’s wife to Dusty Corner at mile 38. While waiting around, I walked over to the portoilet with Joe G of Tony’s crew and the portoilet lock sign showed a little bit of red, but was mostly green, so I presumed it was open. I pulled the door open and the well-known Jenn S was inside. Oops, pretty funny. The lead three of Geoff, Tony, and Kilian came through together and Kilian still wasn’t carrying water. As a result, Tony was the first out, then Geoff, then Kilian. Not carrying water, he was chugging in aid. Hal had moved up to 4th, but it was a big gap from there back to Miller and Schmitt, running together in 5 and 6. 5 minutes later Clark came though and was looking good. We waited around a bit and saw Kochik, Redpath, AJW, Robbins, and several others come through, but the other PI guys had fallen back. We then headed back to Foresthill, mile 62, while Nick’s wife and mother-in-law would see him at Michigan Bluff, mile 53.
We had a long wait at Foresthill and I took the time to eat my lunch and rest my eyes a bit, sitting in the car with the AC on for a good while. Eventually they posted a leaderboard and Nick was running with Schmitt and Miller in the 5 spot now at mile 53. Nick P had run down 2 miles to meet up with Nick C earlier, while I set up the spread of our support options. Kilian led Tony into Foresthill aid by maybe 30 seconds, but Tony got out 30 seconds faster and was accompanied by his pacer, Joe G. Kilian headed out with his pacer, Rickey G, who had a camera mounted to his hat to catch some video and who will race Barr Trail in 3 weeks. Rickey would take KJ down to the river, 16 miles, where Jorge P cycled in to pace. Geoff trailed Tony and KJ by 12 minutes into Foresthill was another 6 minutes back. It was a good 18 minutes or so before Miller came through in 5th and then Clark in 6th, 2 mins back of Miller and 20+ of Hal. We got Clark his bottles, some sponges over the head, and a change of shoes, and I joined him for the start of my pacing. I caught him up on the race up front and the race behind with what I could tell from the posted leader board.

I settled in behind and once back on the trail, he was running remarkably well for being 62 miles into the race. He’d only get stronger as the day wore on, still running smoothly and taking walk breaks up only the steepest of climbs. Earlier in the day, someone had joked that CREW stood for Cranky Runner Endless Waiting, but Nick was in good spirits. It was hot and I was dripping with sweat almost as soon as we started running. It got up to 93 in Auburn on the day, so I’m sure it was 100+ in some of the exposed stretched. From 62 to 80, it was hot on exposed trails. With aid every 3-5 miles the rest of the way, Pete Stevenson’s pacer, Mike P, had tried to talk me into going with just one bottle, as he planned. I decided against and wow, thankfully so. I was drinking nearly both bottles completely in 5 miles during this stretch - and I'd just started running.

We reeled Miller (who in true ultra fashion had hitchhiked to the start) in about 2 miles out of Foresthill and at the next aid stations, they told us that Hal was just 15 minutes up, then 10, then 3. It was clear that we were making up time very quickly. We caught him about 2 miles before the river, so maybe mile 76 and he and his pacer, Erik S, graciously stepped aside and wished us well. He was running well earlier in the day, but it wasn’t meant to be and his day would end a few miles later at the river. We’d moved into 4th then and headed towards the river crossing. I was never sure how hard I could go on Nick and when hiking up one steep section, I got a “dude, I’m going all out right now” reply, but that was the only snap I got out of him all day. It was good to work with him.

Due to the water flows, we were taking a boat across instead of fording the river. They made us put a life jacket on and buckled the top buckle as we got into the boat. I told Nick to dunk his visor in the river as we crossed and he went crazy doing this, as did I. Nick did a lot more dunking once out of the boat. Probably the best thing I did all day was get him out of aid pretty quickly. Our routine was that I’d find out what mile this aid station was, how many miles to the next one, and how far up the next guy was on us. The volunteers would fill our bottles and I’d grab sponges or something to dump on Nick’s head if a volunteer wasn’t ready to do this. As soon as the routine was done, I’d start with “lets go, lets get out, come on” a few times and we’d be moving again.

Pedatella again gave us support at Green Gate, mile 80, and I put a headlamp on. It’d be 15 miles until we had crew again and thought I’d better be more safe than sorry. We were in 4th and the aid station volunteers said that the top 3 were well out of range. Nick said he just needed to hold on to 4th, but I again reminded him that KJ was running without water and could easily blow up. I thought there was a reasonable chance of it happening, but by no means a certainty.

The next aid was Brown’s Bar at mile 85 and now we had news that we needed, Kilian had fallen apart and was just 10 minutes up. Tony was leading, but Geoff had closed it to a 2 minute gap. Nick got motivated and we got to work, running very smoothly and running every hill. We hit aid at 89 and now the news was that KJ was 20 minutes up, “in another zip code” as the volunteers said. This was disheartening and we again felt that 4th was the best we could do. I’d given Nick the needed time to get in under 17 hours, his time goal, ever since we left Foresthill - “5 hours…” or “12 minutes miles the rest of the way and we’re in under 17,” but the closer we got, the more it was apparent that we really would be looking at a low 16.

At the mile 93 aid, Pedatella again met us and gave us the word that KJ was 7 minutes up and running poorly. Wow, Nick got immediately to work and clocked the fastest split of the day from 93 to No Hands Bridge at mile 96. It was surely sub 7:30 pace. I stayed behind, as I did all day, and couldn’t believe it. My legs felt good, but I don’t think I could’ve run any faster myself, having run some 62 miles less than Clark. We crossed the bridge at 96 and got word that KJ was now just 90 seconds to 2 mins up. More pushing, I did my best to keep Nick focused and working, "dead meat ahead." KJ finally came into view a mile out of the bridge, so around mile 97 Nick surged past he and his pacer, his third of the day - now a French guy, as KJ stepped aside for us. KJ wasn’t done though and immediately upped his effort. We got up 30 meters or so on them and as the hill went up further, KJ came back on us and moved ahead of Clark. Less than 2 miles to go. They ran side by side into the 98.9 mile aid station, four abreast including the pacers, and KJ’s crew member joined our party. That made it 5 of us running in a row up the pavement hill out of Robie Point (?)towards the Auburn track as the lights were in view and the sounds from the stadium audible. KJ was talking to his crew, clearly he still had something left, but I kept telling Nick that he was tougher than him. KJ started to pull away and put 20 meters or so on us. Nick said “all right, this is it” or something like that and sprinted to bridge the gap that KJ had opened. Nick's move was as quick as you'd expect a set of fresh hill sprints to be. Bam, just dropped the hammer and was sprinting back up to KJ. I sprinted too and then started dry heaving, 5 or 6 times in a row, as Nick, KJ, KJ’s pacer, and KJ’s crew guy all ran away from me. I couldn’t believe it and thought my worst nigthmare was coming true, but fortunately after a few serious dry heaves, I was able to rejoin the group, who were still running side by side across the road, and again offer some encouragement. With the top of the hill in sight, KJ scampered up though, seemingly effortlessly, and rolled down the backside, leaving no chance for us to cover his move or bridge back up. He sprinted around the track a minute ahead of us, while young Alistair ran it in with Nick, Nick P, and I in 16:05, one of the fastest non-winning times ever and certainly the fastest 4th place finisher ever.

It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in all of sports. Two guys, 99 miles into a 100 mile race, running uphill at a near dead sprint to the finish line. There were no video cameras out there in this section, just me, another pacer, a crew guy, and a handful of spectators to watch the incredible action. It was really something to see, and a be a part of. Truly epic, dramatic stuff.

It was easy to root against KJ throughout the day. They’re like the Yankees. They drove around in a Lincoln Navigator with logos all over it, used 3 pacers, one that had a video camera on his hat, he carried zero water the entire day, had a crew of 15 or so out there, a Facebook page with 5,000+ fans, and had a crazy white speed suit on. With admiration, I congratulated him post-race though on how he fought back and let the sponsor guys know that I was impressed, he’d made me into a fan (although not a Facebook fan). He easily could’ve let us run it in in 3rd, but he wouldn't budge, fought back, and worked hard not to surrender 3rd place. He’s a warrior, all of them are, tough 100 milers.
I felt pretty good for the first 20 minutes post-race, but then went on about a 15 minute dry heaving fit on the infield of the track. Even two hours later, I’d still burst into a dry heaving or coughing fit periodically, usually while Nick would look and laugh at me. It was the longest that I’d ever run, 38 miles in some 6:19 from 2:46 PM to 9:05 PM, and while my legs felt solid all day long, I’m not sure that I could’ve run the 38 miles straight up much faster than I did. Nick was moving that well. If my legs were good, my stomach was just ok. I drank a ton of water and burped a ton, all day long. With the water, I took 5 Gu’s, a quarter of a banana, and a handful of Saltstick pills. I stepped on the scale for good measure post-race and weighed 128.7, which I thought was really good. I was probably no more than 130 at any point during the day, so I maintained well. I only took one pee during the 38 miles, so I think I took about the right amount of water. I've got three black toenails, but that was nothing compared to this full set of 10 that an unknown runner had on Sunday.

It was a lot of fun and I can’t thank Nick enough for letting me be a part of it.


GZ said...

Simply, this is effin awesome.

So stoked for Nick, you. Pretty damn cool.

Well done and way to continue the dream spring / summer you have been having.

Team Gangels Runs said...

Sweet report! I was super excited just watching the results from my iphone, I can't imagine what it was like being there. I was stoked when Nick and KJ came through together at 98 miles. I for sure thought Nick had third. I guess Nick has to consider himself and elite ultrarunner after that performance.

RunColo said...

Fantastic stuff, I was really excited for Nick when you sent me that email. Nice work on your part though helping him out.

Jaime said...

As GZ said, "effin awesome". Great write up and thanks for sharing what sounds like an amazing experience.

Derrick said...

Great report. Very interesting perspective.

JeffO said...

Awesome good time.
Good job keeping with Nick. He's a steamroller.

As for those 10 black toes... Something else besides running causes all 10 toes to go black. I hear Sharpies can cause it too. Just for symmetry, and a bit of a gag.
Toe nails are stupid. Maybe in thousands of years we'll finally evolve beyond them.

Brandon Fuller said...

That got me wet.

FastED said...

Great report JM! Got chills reading the report. Congrats to you as well for keeping Nick on task! The crew/pacing thing is no easy deal.

I'm gonna put a link to this report on my blog so I don't have to re-write everything from the start to Michigan Bluff.

talk soon

Nick said...

Justin - thanks again, man. Awesome job keeping me focused and in the game.

While I won't be doing you any favors on the Big Hill in August, consider yourself owed crewing/pacing duties should the occasion ever arise.

Jim P. said...

Great write-up, JM. Sounds like an amazing experience all around. Thanks for the report.

Rob said...

I couldn't believe it when I read in Nick's report that he had his pacer dry heaving. Now that is intense! Way to go Team Clark and awesome job Justin!

chuckd said...

Fantastic race report. You did an amazing job pacing. Congrats!!

Terence Doherty said...

brilliant report and congrats to the team. almost getting me excited to run a few more steps these days.