Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lotsa Puking, But I Got My Bronze Buckle

Western States was once again the huge event that it always is. In 2005, I was really nervous during all of the pre-race stuff, but not this year. I really enjoyed everything I did in Squaw in the days leading up to the race. I was very relaxed, evidenced by my heart rate of 48 at the pre-race medical check on Friday morning. I knew I was fit, and I was definitely confident in my ability to perform well.

Well, I didn't perform up to my expectations. I did finish, 24:44:13, which I am very happy about. I never really considered dropping. But I just had a long day out there.

I felt great through the high country, wearing my heart rate monitor up until Dusty Corners at mile 38 to help keep my effort intact. I really enjoyed the high country miles running at different times with Stan, Lewis, Krissy, Scott, Brian M, Brian R, Simon, and others.

I went down pretty hard about a mile before Robinson Flat and that really sucked the wind out of me. But when I got to Robinson, I couldn't help but get re-energized. The crowd there was absolutely epic! I felt like a rock star - hearing my name shouted out from all directions, high fives everywhere, and definitely got a lump in my throat a few times. I left there on top of the world and was able to get a decent groove going again.

Getting to Miller's Defeat aid station at mile 34, run by the SWEAT Running Club out of Redding, CA, I thanked them for putting on a great marathon in January. To my complete surprise, one of them then complimented me for putting on a great Peterson Ridge Rumble in April. That was the nicest thing anyone said to me all day and I was stoked.

I continued on down, down, down the hill to Last Chance at mile 43. Shortly after that, on the decent down to Swinging Bridge, I started getting really hot. Uh, that's not good. The climb up the Thumb hurt, as did the next long decent down El Dorado Canyon (it hurt because of the heat, not my legs). Down at the El Dorado a.s., mile 53, I was really, really hot, and the a.s. workers could see that. They offered up the creek to cool me down and I accepted with hesitation. It felt awesome to stand in the cool creek for 10 minutes to cool my core. I left feeling like my race might just turn around.

I was wrong. About 20 minutes later, I was dry again and hurting. I eventually got to Michigan, got lots of help cooling off again from Peter, Darla, Chris, and everybody's favorite Russian, Ogla. Since I like Volcano Canyon, I left Michigan looking forward to the next 10 km. I didn't do what I hoped in there and made it to Foresthill in not very high spirits. I knew Thomas was joining me for the next 18 miles, but I was to miserable to really want to run with anybody.

Thomas did a great job getting me down to the river. By the time he was with me, I had been puking lots, and that didn't change. At Peachstone, I was able to eat 1/2 a grilled cheese sandwich, 2 cups of soup, and a cup of Coke. Good, solid calories that I wanted to keep down. So we walked out of the a.s., then slowly jogged. When I did puke again, at least it was everything I had just put down, so that was a plus. Then at Ford's Bar, we did something I wasn't planning on until13 miles later - we broke out the headlamps.

Crossing the river was nice and felt good. As the temperature was still hot, as was I, I should have fully submerged myself. However, I was too afraid of getting hypothermia on the hike up to Green Gate, so I didn't take full advantage of the river. Bad decision, as I got pretty hot again on the climb. Being hot again at the top, Bryon literally took the shirt off his back, got it wet, then draped it over my head to help cool me down. What a guy.

Darla and I then set out for the final 20, with thoughts of a sub-24 still in my mind. But it wasn't to be. As the night drew on, I kept puking and puking and puking. And just to make sure, I puked some more. Despite the heat, at ALT, I got a little chilly and got my jacket from my drop bag. The puking was draining all of my energy. I actually ended up wearing the jacket twice for short sections.

A little after Brown's Bar at mile 90, I finally let out the mother puke - I actually had to stop for this one (all of the rest I continued to walk, run, jog, whatever). A lot came out and a few minutes later, I actually felt pretty good again. So the last 9ish miles I was able to pick up my pace ever-so-slightly. It felt great to be running, er, jogging again. Going into Hwy 49 at mile 93.5, I just wanted to get out of there and finish. Crewboy Chris said that in the almost 4 hours he was there watching, I was by far the fastest in and out of that a.s.

Leaving Hwy 49 at 4 a.m., Darla was so cute and said that I could still get a sub-24. Little did she know about the climb out of the a.s., or the final climb up Robie. I told her that the top guys do it in 1:20, so don't worry about the time. We eventually made it across No Hands and up the climb to Robie. And just as I was bummed to turn on my headlamp with Thomas, I was equally bummed to turn off my headlamp with Darla on the way up to Robie. I didn't want to see the sun rise again while still out on the trail.

Anyway, we hit the pavement and soon enough the track for the final 300 meters. I finished happy and exhausted in 24:44:13 for 76th place. There were 399 starters and 238 finishers. That's a fairly hefty 40% drop rate. Ouch.

Chris and Darla saw that the temperature in Auburn on Saturday was 111, and at 8 p.m., it was still 100 at Green Gate. So estimates are that the highs in the canyons were probably in the 110-115 degree range. Hot.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Thomas and Darla for not letting me sleep at aid stations, and to Chris for being my main crew boy. You all were a very big reason for my finish. Also, thank you to Joe for letting me crash at his house, and not on I-5, on Sunday night.

Another 100? "Definitely not" on Sunday and Monday, "probably not" on Tuesday, and "maybe" on Wednesday. Ultrarunners are kinda stupid, or at least forgetful very quickly.


Brad Mitchell said...

Congratulations Sean - way to stick it out!

Anonymous said...

it's inspiring to hear an elite runner who's been beaten down and up during a race and yet wills himself to finish and honor the event and respect the competitors from the front runners to the middle of the pack all the way to the back of the pack. kudos to you!

Bret said...

Sean, you gained more respect from me the way you stuck with it on this race. Those we such tough conditions. Many top folks dropped on this day knowing that they didn't have it within them to place. But you respected the race and did what you had to do to finish. How many times did you get sick?? Crazy! You should be very proud of the accomplishment that you beat the demons this day.

Good to see you at FH. I have a few pix on the blog. Copy them if you wish.

C-ya at Waldo.

Luke said...

Sean- way to gut it out, I have as much if not more respect for the people that are able to keep plugging along even when it gets ugly. Great report, may you recovery quickly!

Scott Dunlap said...

You did it! I know once you start puking, the big question is whether you will finish at all. That's a damn good time considering the heat.

Ain't nothing wrong with a bronze when 40% went home with nothing.

Great report!


Gretchen said...

Nice Job Sean! I was super excited when I checked the website Sunday morning and saw that you finished. Yay Sean!!!! I know it's not the time you were hoping for, but, wow...what a day. You were so tough, and you should be proud.

Anonymous said...

I just gotta ask, why would you eat a grilled cheese sandwhich if you had been puking? Fat and protein when your stomach is upset, is that what your mom gave you when you had the flu? I think not.

Meghan said...


Congrats on finishing and the great attitude that you have. I'm soooooo proud of you, and I wish you a fast, happy recovery. Especially for your intestinal tract.

And, yes, ultrarunners are stupid. :) But in the best possible way!


saschasdad said...

Brad - thanks man. I always appreciate your support.

Anon 1 - although I don't consider myself elite, your comment really does means a lot to me. I definitely did feel like I was out there honoring the race and fellow competitors. Thank you for realizing that.

FB - you and Gail are super cheerleaders. Despite my mood at FH, seeing you really did improve my outlook. I can't count the # of times I puked - way too many. Thank you.

Luke - thanks. When I recover, I'm going to the Tetons to get in some good running. I'll let you know when.

Scott - Yeah man, I did it - and I'm definitely not ashamed of my bronze in the least. I've been wearing it the past few days. I know you had a rough day out there, too. Great job gutting it out, too.

Gretchen - thanks for being so stoked for me. Great seeing you on Friday.

Anon 2 - Oh yeah, the fat from the cheese really does coat the stomach and help settle it. Seriously. Occasionally after puke-fest races, I'll have KFC because it does the same thing. It sounds gross, but it works.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 2: No, Sean's mom did not give him grilled cheese sandwiches when he was sick. Good thing he wasn't sick much because we know how he loves doctors.
Good job, Sean.

Elizabeth said...

Amazing job Sean!!! So proud of you! Keep up those amazing adventures!

William Swint said...

Way to gut it out! Very impressive.

Peter Lubbers said...

Hey Sean,
Really proud of the way you gutted this one out! Congrats man.

You made it in the newspaper, too:

Finally, check out some pictures at

Rick M said...

Great report! I had problems with the Bluff. Finished a lot slower than expected.

Ms Eva said...

Congratulations, Sean! :D

Olga said...

The way you looked at Michigan and the finish is all I ever need to know about you. Very proud of you, Sean. Will think of you this weekend:)

Anonymous said...

Great job, Sean! Man, that does not sound fun at all... I'm so impressed that you stuck it out.
Katie B.