Thursday, February 19, 2009

Western States Memories

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 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.


Olga said...

OK, since you have none, you got my comment over Goat:) although I already posted on Craig's. You boys just know when to ramp up interesting stories, those that you've lived through, so they resonate much better. Obviously, anybody who had ever set a foot on WS course has momentoes and memories. From the first training camp in 2004, when I never even ran in the mountains before (living in NYC), to that first run on 2 pretty fresh stress fractures (I wasn't about to miss on it!) to seeing the beauty (crap! downhills hurt so much, my quads were twitching by Michigan, and I got massage, one and only at the race ever), to those last 10 miles on wabbled knees...2005 was much better, although having explosive diarrhea last 20M was really untimely, to say the least (people got really annoyed at me stopping to squat in the bushes and then re-passing them back again), but - I got my goal, and it was awesome and scary to be on "podium". I also remember hugging you at the finish line, boy, under 24! 2006 went into survival mode from mile 10, and we still had 90M to go...oh, man, how many times I wnated to quit! Apparently, I was in 51% that finished, so that should make me feel better, although it still doesn't - to the point I decided not to try again. But now I want to watch it, crew somebody, pace Nick Pallazzo did for me first 2 years, and BW and Gail - last one. Nick and I even practiced Bikram yoga on the way to the river! So I am driving down this year. I know the feeling. It's that family thing and the sweet memories. Now I got the same itch with Hardrock, after spending 10 days there. Now I'll have 2 places to hang out at in the summer:)

Rod Bien said...

I think I did say, "that was a good one" after I puked. Yep, us stud pukers don't need to brag about our puking prowess.

seagull junker said...

one more memory... you running 2:50 down cal street in the day light of the day gapping your pacer a few times... oh, that hasn't happened yet... it will in a few months... you might puke a lot... but can you beat me puking 14 times without breaking stride in the nice cool year in '06??? bring it brother... ok, don't try that one... jam on colonal

Craig Thornley said...

Thanks for the link to Eye of the Tiger. Didn't somebody sing that last year after Way Too Cool? I had tried to repress that memory but something is vaguely coming back.