For this, the second addition of the Western States Synchroblog, I'm going to share with you the thing I love most about Western States: memories. I've only been there three times - 2004 pacing Ashley Idema (now Nordell), 2005 running, 2007 pacing Rod Bien - but I've definitely made many fond memories in those years. And thus, I will share some of my favorites with you.
#1: Without a doubt, pacing Ashley is my very favorite WS memory. Shortly after we left Foresthill, Ashley told me about some knee pain she had been having for quite a while. Going down Cal Street, it only got worse. So at Cal 1, I decided to put some ice on it...but how? I got a ziplock bag from the volunteers, filled it with ice, and duct taped it to her knee. Down we went to Cal 2, with Ashley's knee feeling a bit better. A quick ice and tape change and we were out of there. On the way to Cal 3, her other knee started bothering her, too. So, we left Cal 3 with a bag of ice duct taped to each knee. Sweet! The refilling of ice and re-duct taping continued all night at each aid station. When we reached Hwy 49, Ashley's parents were there to cheer. We hadn't seen them since Foresthill, so they had no idea about Ashley's knee situation. Her mom gave me the look-of-death...it was awesome! What had I done to her little 24-year old girl?? Naturally, Ashley was getting pretty tired of the whole situation by now, too. I specifically remember when the sun was light enough again to see without headlamps. Going down to No Hands, I casually glanced at my watch to check the time, Ashley saw me and scowled "Stop looking at your watch! I don't care what time it is!!" Not only did Ashley finish her first 100, she even managed to earn one of those cool top-3 age group jackets. And she eventually forgave me for torturing her through the final 38 miles. Thanks for letting me tag along, Ash.
The next 9 memories are really in no particular order...
#2: Watching Scott and Dave duke it out in 2004. Seeing them come into and leave Michigan Bluff within a minute of each other was nothing short of epic. They had been hammering each other through the heat for 8 1/2 hours and they both left with The Eye of the Tiger. Scott would go on to break the course record while Dave would go on to run the fastest non-winning and rookie time in WS history.
#3: Upon finishing with Ashley in 2004, I saw my buddy Jeff Riley hanging out on the grass in the infield. He looked completely wasted, but also super stoked. I could tell he had pulled off a good one. So I guessed sub-21. He smiled a bit, then began telling me about his excellent 20:08! Thankfully he was sitting down when he said that because I was so excited that I tackled him. I knew Jeff was going to have an awesome race.
#4: Me "running" from Green Gate to Hwy 49 in 2005, a distance of 13.7 miles, in 5:09. Luckily I had my buddy Ian, a D3 Cross Country All American, pacing me because I knew I would be flying in that section. Seriously, I thought I was running.
#5: Getting passed in the last 10 miles of 2005 by Chip, Rooster, and Olga. Yeah, I was puking my guts out and having a horrible day, but I could tell the three of them were having epic days. It was cool to watch each of them go prancing by me en route to p.r.'s.
#6: Less than 20 minutes after my own 2005 finish, I was already in my sleeping bag on the infield and almost passed out. Within minutes off lying down, I heard shouts for Ed and I managed to open my eyes long enough to watch Ed Willson give everything he had to pull out an incredible 23:58:23.
#7: While waiting with the other 23:something finishers to receive my silver buckle, I heard the name Jon Sinclair, turned around, and immediately recognized him as he, too, waited for his silver buckle. For those not familiar, Jon was a world-class road distance runner in the 80s and 90s. He was a big fixture at my hometown race, Bloomsday, winning it in '83 (my first-ever running race) and again in '86, becoming Bloomsday's first male two-time champ. Anyway, Jon was basically my running hero while growing up. So, I just had to introduce myself. I did so by asking him what was harder: winning Bloomsday or finishing WS in sub-24. He was definitely caught a little off-guard by the question. After I introduced and explained myself, he didn't hesitate in answering sub-24 at Western States.
#8: Listening to Jon Ticer's story in 2005 about how he went down hard while running down to the river. His finger whacked something pretty hard and consequently, dislocated itself. Unfazed, Jon told Kevin Myers, his pacer, to jam it back into place for him. Kevin was able to put the finger back where it belonged, Jon got a little tape at the next aid station, and he went on to rock a stellar 18:03:17 for 6th place.
#9: Hal cruising in to Dusty Corners in 2007. He had his tunes on and was just rockin', but yet looked so silky smooth. He didn't have crew there, so I asked if he needed help. He just non-chalantly said "naw", refilled his bottles, grabbed some food, put his tunes back on, and cruised on out. He didn't seem to have a worry on his mind and he made it all seem so effortless. At that point, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Hal was going to win.
#10: Leaving Green Gate with Rod in 2007. Less than 100 meters after I had started my pacing duties, Rod said "hang on a minute, I gotta puke". Being a puker myself, I knew he didn't need any sympathy here, but rather just a minute to puke. So I gave him his minute, he puked, and off we went in search of a top-10 finish; not a word was spoken about said puke.
I definitely have many other fond Western States memories, but these are some of my favorites. What is yours?
To find out what my fellow geeky Western States Synchrobloggers love about Western States, check out their blogs:
Bryon Powell, read what Goat likes most about Western States.
Scott Dunlap, read why the king of running blogs thinks too much information about Western States makes it the ultimate conquest.
Andy Jones-Wilkins, read what Jizzle Wizzle loves about running Western States.
Craig Thornley, read what LB thinks of the Western States Family.