First Western States 100 Sub-24: Race Report

I ran my first Western States and first 100 in 2007 finishing in a little over 27 hours. WS2010 was my second 100 and my second Western States, and my goal was to break 24 hours. To ascend 18,000 feet and descend 23,000 feet across 100.2 miles of treacherous mountain trails during the heat of the day and chill of the night in sub-24, I knew I would have to train hard, much harder than for 2007.

I ran 16 ultras in the twelve months leading to WS2010 and used every race not only to train my body but also to fine tune my stride, hydration, nutrition, electrolytes and feet. My buddies would laugh at all my experimentation. On one race I would have different socks on each foot to test which one was better. On the next race, I would have the better socks on both feet but would have a single sock on one foot and double socks on the other. The following run would have me with double socks on both feet but with Vaseline on one foot and Bodyglide on the other. And so on until 16 ultras later I pretty much had resolved all foot issues other than an unrelenting plantar fasciitis from all the running.

As part of my training, I also ran Miwok 100 a couple of months before Western States. Miwok is a beautiful yet grueling 100 kilometer race well known as a two-times the finishing-time barometer for Western States. My Miwok time put me at an over 24-hour Western States finish, but then I again I didn’t taper for Miwok or for any other race prior to Western States. They were all training runs.

Add to my 16 ultras pacing friends at their 100 mile races, the Western States Memorial Day Runs where two buddies and I continued to Rucky Chucky after arriving to Foresthill from the start around Dusty Corners (for a total of 45 miles), countless number of other 25+ mile runs, 5 to 6 hours a week of weight training, moving to Squaw Valley 45 days prior to the race to sleep at altitude and train in the canyons during the day, two weeks of baking in a sauna for one to two hours a day, a 3-week, high-intensity, low-mileage taper, and the support of a phenomenal crew, wife, son, and 1600 volunteers, and I felt well prepared for my 2010 Western States goal despite being a very average runner.

My wife Trish was at Squaw with me
and takes this picture a few seconds
after the start.

Adrenaline carries the runners up the 2,500 climb from Squaw Valley in what seems to be a blink of an eye.  However, the hour or so that it takes most of us to crest this mountain provides ample time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I was honored to hike and chat for a good portion of the climb with my buddy Dan Brenden, running with a broken big toe and attempting to accomplish this year the unthinkable record of seven Grand Slams in a row. I also ran for a bit with my much too proper friend and first time WS runner Franz Dill, until he stepped 20 feet to the side of the trail and worked his way behind a tree just to pee. I caught the usual glimpse of by buddy Eric Vaughan, hiking much stronger than me about 300 yards ahead. I was inspired by Amy Palmiero-Winters, running on a prosthetic leg, and was glad we could exchange a few nice words.  But the blink of the eye was soon over, and we had climbed for about 4 miles cresting at about 9,000 feet with the sunrise.

I then proceeded to run/slide over the next 6-10 miles of snow and slush. Here is a good video of that section:

I was just a few minutes ahead of these runners
and using a similar technique.
Video by Michael Cook from seetherace

My hydration pack failed during this section of the course. I would suck as hard as I could on the nipple but no water would come out. At 9,000 feet of altitude, sucking the air from a hose in no way helps running. Sliding on the snow with frozen feet and by now permanently sunken cheeks from all the unsuccessful sucking, I removed my pack and held it on one hand while I tested all of its components with the other. Scores of runners asked if they could help, one even offering duct tape.  I love the camaraderie of ultras and how we use and help each other to run toward our own goals.  After a few very frustrating miles, I discovered that the culprit was the nipple itself. With great pleasure, I tore it off with my teeth and proceeded to drink directly from the hose without intermediaries, kinking and unkinking it to start and stop the water flow as necessary.

Arriving Duncan Canyon - Mile 25
My First Crew-Supported Aid Station
Photograph by Glenn Tachiyama

I knew I was approaching the Duncan Canyon aid station when the trail got rougher. My buddy Eric and 20 other volunteers had been clearing the poppy trail the prior weekend in anticipation of a snow route year and told me that they had run out of time towards the end. While still runable, exposed roots and rocks on the last mile kept my eyes on the ground and away from the beautiful French Meadows Reservoir.

I saw my wife and son hiking to the aid station; all three of us fortuitously arriving at the same time.  This was not their official crewing aid station, but throughout the race from Squaw to Auburn, they would find their way to all aid stations nonetheless to help and support me.  I'm a lucky guy.

I swapped my hydration pack for more dependable water bottles at mile 25, my first crew-supported, aid station. My crew had just arrived there 5-10 minutes before I did, and they were not expecting me for at least another 30 minutes. As a result, they didn’t have everything quite ready for me. I had to fish for my own bottles and food bag as they remained somewhat paralyzed just looking at me tear through their supply bags.  Their next aid-station would be much more efficient.

Video at Duncan Canyon Aid Station - Mile 25

I left Duncan Canyon aid station annoyed and in a hurry and pushed it hard down and up this first canyon reaching a snow-covered mile 30 with a 30-minute time buffer against my 24-hour goal.  My wife had sent a text message to my second crew at Robinson Flat telling them to expect me way early. Prepared for my arrival, I easily swapped bottles with my second crew, drank an extra bottle of Gatorade there, gave them some love, and left quickly to hike most of the next slippery, snow-covered mile.

I had arrived to Robinson flat less than a minute behind my buddy Eric and said hello to him as I made my way from the aid station to my crew stand which was just a few yards further than his. But surrounded like a rock star by his family entourage tendering to his every need, Eric didn’t hear me. I left Robinson Flat before him, expecting that he would catch up with me and that we would run together at least a portion of the 45-mile section we had covered during the Memorial Day Training Runs.

With the snow behind me, I ran hard down and up the next 3 canyons for 31 additional miles during the hottest part of the day. I don't think the canyons reached quite 100F, but it was hot. At every stream crossing, I would dunk my hat and as much of my body as possible to cool off.  At every aid station in the canyons, I would spend a few seconds at their sponge "car wash" and soak at least my head, neck and shoulders with cold water.

Lots of streams to cross and cool off.

Unbeknownst to me, along this time span, my embarrassed Duncan Canyon Crew was struggling desperately to fix the hydration pack and drive fast enough on corkscrew and serpentine roads to reach Dusty Corners, an aid station in the middle of the canyons. With great effort, they got to the aid station on time and hiked all the supplies to a perfect spot. They spread everything out neatly so I could stop and select whatever I needed... new shoes, blister repair kit, first aid kit, water, Gatorade, GU's, towel, TP, etc. They even sent my nephew up the hill to spot me so he could alert the rest; everyone desirous of seeing me and helping me for a few moments. My nephew spots me and alerts the crew. I spot my new hydration pack being held by my brother-in-law and lock my eyesight on it. As everyone gathered to help, like an expert thief, I took the hydration pack from his hands without ever stopping for a second, leaving my crew unfulfilled and agape.

Arriving to Dusty Corners - Mile 38

Video at Dusty Corners Aid Station - Mile 38

Similarly, I would fly down at lactate threshold the steep switchbacks in the canyons passing many running gingerly, afraid of the scree and constant presence of a precipice just to the side of the trail. Most of these runners would then pass me on the uphills. I was running harder than my sustainable ability and consequently I was among runners well above my league.

I think I only passed one runner going up Devil's Thumb, and as I passed him he asked me how long was the climb. "About 45 minutes at this pace," I replied and asked,  "you haven't trained here before?"  "Oh, no," he said, "this is my first trail race."  That's the beauty of running ultras; there is always someone more nuts than you.  I would see this formidable, Portuguese runner again as he passed me back on the hill from Robie Point.

My best sponge bath ever would have to be that at the bottom of El Dorado Canyon.  Just past the bridge, the volunteers had lined up for the runners 5-gallon buckets of cold water freshly hoisted from the river. I spent a few minutes there dousing myself with the most refreshing water ever. After thanking them profusely, I pushed it hard up the canyon arriving totally dry to Michigan Bluff 45 minutes later.

Awaiting at Michigan Bluff was the treat of my thirteen-year-old son who would run with me the short, paved-road section in this runner-friendly town that I had visited so many times during training. I don’t know what prompted me to have both a cup of Coke and a cup of ginger ale at this aid station, but I paid for it with a bloated stomach all the way to the top of Bath Road. My son had two bottles of Gatorade for me as planned, so this deviation from my plan was totally unnecessary.

Eric’s wife and daughter also greeted me upon my arrival to Michigan Bluff and told me that Eric was about 45 minutes behind me. “He still within 24 hours,” I said and asked, “What about Franz?” “He is a little further behind,” they said. We had all trained so hard for a sub-24 hour finish. I wanted all three of us running together.

In any event, Joseph had promised me a poem if I finished in less than 24 hours and to encourage me as we ran together said, “Dad, I’ve already started writing it!” This lifted my spirits and propelled me to Foresthill.

Arriving Michigan Bluff - Mile 55
About an Hour ahead of Schedule
My son Joseph took care of me at this Aid Station
and ran with me to entrance of trail.

I had managed to build a little over one hour buffer by the time I reached the top of Bath Road. My brother-in-law paced me from there to Foresthill at mile 62, where I sat for the first time and rested a few minutes while all my crew took great care of me.

Arriving Foresthill - Mile 62

Video at  Foresthill - Mile 62

My wife shood me out of Foresthill at 6:00 pm on the dot, leaving me with exactly a one hour buffer to the goal.  I picked up Joe, my pacer, at this point and we increased our buffer by a few minutes over the next 16 miles to Rucky Chucky, the largest river crossing of the race.  Aside from the Heed in my hydration pack, I was not able to take any calories during this three and a half hour pounding to the river. Towards the end of this section I could definitely feel that I was running on fumes.

To put things in perspective, at 8 pm, 15 hours into the race, I was somewhere around mile 73, five miles short of the river crossing.  Geoff Roes was about to arrive victorious to Auburn in a new course record.  Eighty runners were ahead of me and over three hundred behind me.

I got a cup of soup from my dear friends at the aid station just before the river crossing.  I volunteered at this aid station in 2009 and had been looking forward to seeing everyone again from a different perspective.  But my head was not so clear when I got there, so I only managed to mutter a few words.  I promise to be more coherent next year when I am there again as a volunteer.

Because of the late snow melt this year, the water was too high so runners were ferried across on rafts.

A one minute ride to the other side of Rucky Chucky.
Photograph by Facchino Photography

We crossed the river about 1/2 hour after sunset and by now my internal systems had shut down. Either from dehydration, exhaustion, electrolyte imbalance, lack of calories, or all of the above, I was definitely in bad shape. The picture at the aid station just across the river (mile 78 - Rucky Chucky Far Side) tells the story. Quite a difference from the fleeting thief in the middle of the canyons, I pleaded to rest for awhile, but the aid-station volunteers and my crew correctly forced me to continue after 5 to 10 minutes on the chair.

Rucky Chucky Far Side - Mile 78
Totally Out of Gas!

I walked slowly up the hill with my nephew to mile 80 (Green Gate), taking frequent and small sips from a bottle with propel. By the time I reached the top of the hill, I had recovered just enough to resume running.  I left Green Gate without a flashlight, so I struggled with my footing with only my headlamp. My pacer would light the way and point to the treacherous areas as he superbly led me to mile 90 maintaining my one hour of buffer.

By mile 90, I knew that the sub-24 hour goal was in the bag as I almost had enough time to walk it in. My pacer wanted to bring me in at 22 something, but I decided that the extra bragging points were not worth trashing my body any further and instead decided to enjoy the last 10 miles (as much as you can enjoy it after 90 miles on your feet). Without any push back this time from my pacer or aid-station volunteers, I had a beer at that aid station and from there on walked a lot, talked a lot, and let most of the dozen runners with whom I had traded places throughout the race pass me for good without concern.

My nephew Daniel helping me at
Highway 49 crossing

Video at Highway 49 Aid Station

My crew was happy to see me relaxed at Highway 49 and, getting no push back from them either, I enjoyed a cup of potato soup at this aid station, much as I did in 2007.  I wish I could remember the name of the volunteer who served me this cup of soup, but all I remember now is that she was the same volunteer who also gave it to me in 2007.  Thank you! Volunteers are certainly the life of Western States.

After a short walk/run to the next aid station, I enjoyed talking to the volunteers at No Hands Bridge, savored their watermelon, and pondered about this epic run as I admired their famous lighting decorations on the bridge -- a rewarding treat that reveals itself only to those arriving under the cover of night. Hal Koener had set up camp at the bridge to welcome runners, and I was honored to have a relaxed chat with the defending champ. I was sorry to learn that he had dropped at Green Gate -- all champions have bad days but, despite this and much as Scott did during his reign, Hal was there to welcome his fellow runners and offer some final words of encouragement.

Video at No Hands Bridge - Mile 97

I milked every minute of my long 75 minutes from No Hands Bridge to the finish, a section that I had rehearsed time and time again on tired legs to cover in 40 minutes if necessary to make my sub-24 goal. As I was half way up the hill from Robie Point (mile 99), I heard the commotion of another runner arriving to the Robie Point aid station and someone saying, “Eric.” My heart jumped at the thought of crossing the Western States finish line together with my buddy Eric, as we had done at two fifty milers earlier in the year --Leona Divide 50 and Lake Sonoma 50. I stopped immediately and began yelling, “Vaughan, Eric Vaughan, is that you?” “Eric Vaughan, are you there.” “Eric, Eric…” But after a minute of waking up those in the neighborhood not already watching the race at 4:00 am, I desisted. Eric was too far away to answer. He was at mile 85 then, connected to an IV bag after having been pulled from the race by the medics due to twelve pounds of dehydration.

With procrastination and all, my pacer and I arrived to the stadium 45 minutes ahead of the goal. The speakers at the stadium announced the dedication of my race to my thirteen-year-old son as he and I crossed the finish line together in 23:18.

My pacer Joe Reis and my son Joseph
crossing the finish line with me.
Photograph by Facchino Photography

My relatively faster pace this year than 2007's 27-hour finish made this run that much more difficult for me. Doubts, exhaustion, pain, wet or frozen feet, heat claustrophobia, and despair were my constant companions along the course. But so were my crew, my pacer, my training, my goal, my wife, my son, and all of you following me online. Ultimately, the better companions carried the day. I thank all of you infinitely for your support and God and my late father and late sister for the safe passage to Auburn.

I did the entire race on one pair of "minimalist", 7oz shoes (New Balance MT100) and didn't even have one blister at the end. My feet were still swollen three days after the race, but ice baths and Motrin resolved that.

My buddy Franz had a tough first half but ran a very strong second half and crossed the finish line in a little over 25 hours.  He would later tell me about his experience passing our mutual friend Eric around mile 80: "It was hard seeing Eric lying on a cot at Green Gate. And the worst was seeing his wife's face; that's when I knew he was really bad. It was difficult for me to leave him that night." With the consummate spirit of an ultra-runner, Eric did get out of that cot and practically crawled for an additional 5 hours to cover 5 more miles before being pulled from the race by the medics.

Dan Brenden, Grand Slam Extraordinaire, crossed the finish line with his broken big toe in under 25 hours and had already completed another 100 mile ultra in 20 hours before I had even finished writing this report.

Amy Palmiero-Winters completed the course in under 28 hours on a prosthetic leg.

Will I do Western States again?  I really don't know. 2010 was a bittersweet finish for me. Perhaps if I am crazy enough to think I can get it done in under 21 hours, have enough time to train, and can recruit my wife, son and rest of the crew again.  But first I have to crew for my buddies Eric and Franz and see them cross that finish line sub-24.

Technical Notes on Race Day

Here are my technical notes on race day.  Hope it helps you accomplish your Western States goal.

Diet 2 Days Prior to Race: Low Residue  - Rice, pasta, pancakes, sherbert (no milk)
Diet 1 Day Prior to Race:  All Liquid Calories - Rice Milk, Gatorade, Chicken Rice Broth
Diet Day of Race prior to Start: Coffee/Gatorade at 1:00 am. Cliff Shot Blocks at 4:00 am.
--->> Result:  Not one #2 Bathroom stop!

Useful Electrolytes Table from the folks at Succeed:

NA started at 140.  NA finished at 136.  Right on!
1 Succeed every hour for first 2 hours, thereafter every 1/2 hour, until dark, then 1 per hour.
Pre-race weight 150.  Post-race weight about 147. Right on!

Started race with 1 20oz bottle with Gatorade and one 2.5L Hydration Pack with Water.
Dropped Bottle at Escarpment
1 non-caffeine GU every 25-30 minutes after Escarpment
About 2-3 Tums per hour

Got 2 20oz bottles with Gatorade at Duncan Canyon Aid Station
Got 2 20oz bottles with Gatorade at Robinson Flat and drank third one there.
Refilled one bottle with water at Millers Defeat
Swapped Bottles for Hydration Pack with 2.5L of water at Dusty Corners.
Started eating some Ginger Candies from Robinson Flat until finish.  Helps stomach.

Continued with non-caffeine GU every 25-30 minutes until bottom of Devil's Thumb, then switched to caffeine, Vanilla GU.
Refilled Hydration Pack with 2.5L Water at top of Devil's Thumb and had car wash there.
Had a Popsicle at Devil's Thumb
Only stopped for "car wash" at Last Chance and bottom of El Dorado.
Swapped Hydration Pack for 2 Gatorade Bottles at Michigan Bluff (but didn't drink them)
Mistake:  I had a glass of Coke and a glass of Ginger Ale at Michigan Bluff.  It killed my stomach all the way to Bath Road.

Had 3 saltines at bottom of Bath Road.  Stomach still messed up from the soda (because of the gas).

Switched to Heed at Foresthill (5 Heed on 2.5L Hydration Bladder).
Also had a bottle of Propel at Foresthill and 2 cups of chicken soup.
Adding propel powder to water helps water go down.

Bottle of Propel at Rucky Chucky Far Side and another on the way up to Green Gate
5 Heed on 2.5L Hydration Bladder with Water (but was not able to drink it all).

Nothing more until mile 90
Beer there (don't do that!) and some watermelon.

Switched Hydration Bladder for 1.25 L of water with Propel at Hwy 49
Had a cup of potato soup there.

Had some watermelon at No Hands Bridge and onto to finish.

Did not take enough calories from Michigan Bluff on.
Did not take one GU from Foresthill on (Mistake, but body couldn't absorb it).

Shoes - NewBalance 100 with about 15 miles on them prior to start. Never changed them.
2 pairs of socks each foot - WrightSock CoolMesh
Dirty Girl Gators. Stapled Velcro to Back of Shoe so Velcro wouldn't come apart.
Taped hot spots on feet with Elastikon Tape.
Applied Benzoin Tincture prior to Elastikon - (wait until sticky before taping).
Body Glide rest of feet.
Desitin between legs to prevent chafing.
Flashlight: Fenix L2D 6 Level High Performance Cree LED Flashlight
Headlamp: Petzl E53 AC2 ULTRA BELT Headlamp with ACCU (2 extra batteries Petzl E55400 Rechargeable Battery for ACCU 4 Ultra Headlamp)
Shorts: North Face Flight Series
Shirt:  Technical, short sleeve, North Face Flight Series
Head Gear: Coolibar Protective Drape (white) with separate white visor.
Hydration Pack: Nathan with Ultimate Direction Bladder (prefer UD nipple, though it failed)
Bottles: multiple sets of 2 x 20 oz Ultimate Direction

Heart Rate Monitor to mile 62 to ensure running below LT, thereafter I couldn't have gotten heart to LT even if I tried.

Having crews at as many aid stations as possible provides a great psychological advantage--- you want to get there to see them.

Give crew strict instructions to not let you linger at aid stations.

Have an important reason to run the race and keep remininding yourself of that reason throughout the low points.  50% of this race is mental.

My Mistakes:
1) Didn't take enough Calories, particularly from Michigan Bluff on. 
2) Focused too much on arriving to Foresthill with an hour of buffer, knowing that I would have a pacer from there on. Forgot that I was still the one who had to do the running from Foresthill to the finish.
3) Lost focus after mile 90 (a mistake if I was doing the run for the best possible time - worked ok for me this time).
4) Should have tested my new hydration bladder.
5) Didn't check for flashlight before departing Green Gate aid station.

Thank You Crew

Dear Crew and Pacer,

Thank you!

Thank you for putting up with all my emails and instructions over the last month.

Thank you for leaving family behind to be with me.

Thank you for flying all the way to California.

Thank you for the drive to Soda Springs.

Thank you for all the pre-race preparations.

Thank you for handling the stress of the logistics.

Thank you for accepting the responsibility of taking care of me.

Thank you for driving all those miles before, during, and after race day.

Thank you for finding your way to the aid stations.

Thank you for preparing all my supplies and hauling them to the aid stations.

Thank you for waiting patiently for me at the aid-stations only to have me fly by and not even give you a thank you.

Thank you for improvising when necessary.

Thank you for putting up with my tantrums.

Thank you for encouraging me when my systems failed.

Thank you for your team effort.

Thank you for your company and comfort.

Thank you for your lack of sleep, hunger, discomfort and exhaustion.

Thank you for getting me to the finish line on time and safely.

Thank you for sharing this special day with me.

I love you all. I wanted each of you there for a very special reason.

Thank you.

Final Crew Instructions

For pictures of all the supplies and crew day instructions

Video of Crew Instructions: General, Duncan, Robison Flats

Video of Crew Instructions: Dusty Corners, Michigan Bluff, Bath Road

Video of Crew Instructions: Foresthill, Rucky Chucky, Hwy 49

Dear Crew,

Thanks for coming to WS to crew for me.  You'll play critical role in getting me to the finish line.  I'll run hard as my thank you but prepare yourselves to have an unforgettable experience as well.

All the preparations below assume that things are going reasonably well for me but, despite all my training, on 100 miles over very rugged terrain... anything can happen. Things could go terribly wrong from a fall, muscle injury, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, heat, exhaustion, or a combination of these.  Adapt and improvise but, above all, get me to the finish line no matter what.

I already have a Bronze Buckle for finishing in 27 hours. I'm going for a Silver Buckle with an under 24 hour finish. It will be that or bust (i.e. much closer to 30 because I will have blown up somewhere in the trail).

All the instructions might be intimidating but don't worry.  Once you get here and see how everything is organized, you'll feel totally confident about your role.

Thanks again, the instructions follow:

1. Read the WS Participant Guide

2. Take care of yourselves during the race. It's a long race. Make sure you have plenty to drink and eat. A good supermarket to stop at is Raley's at the exit off I-80 towards Foresthill. Raley's is on Lincoln Way which is perpendicular to Auburn Ravine Road and Foresthill Road. It gets hot during the day and cold at night. Plan clothing appropriately. You may want to have a backpack for your stuff. I'll have portable chairs for all of you as well as headlamps and flashlights. Each car will have a cooler that you can use to keep cold water, snacks, etc. The hotels are in Auburn and not too far from the aid stations from mile 55 on.

3. Crew captains will have two bags. One with ice to keep drinks cold, sponges, etc. One for the rest of my gear. Make sure you have plenty of ice. Leave the cooler with extra ice in the car and only transport the bags to the aid stations.

4. Don't add ice to Gatorade (I don't need to dilute the sugar), just make sure it's very cold by having it on melting ice. Fill bottles all the way to the top (the entire contents of the Gatorade bottle should fit in). Please keep the GU's cold as well (but not frozen).

5. If more than one of you is at the aid station, one person should meet me right before the official aid station (towards the trail leading into that aid station) to grab my bottles and stuff and point me towards my stop immediately after the official aid station. Don't linger within the official aid station itself (except at Foresthill). Do not go further than 100 yards or so from the aid station.

6. I will supply everything I may need during the race. Everything is labeled - no way you'll get confused. Aside from needing to purchase ice during the day of the race, you'll have everything I need. But nobody is there to take care of you, so please figure out your food/drink needs. There is a dinner (Sierra Grill) at the Foresthill Exit off I-80. The dinner is across from Starbuck and next to KFC on Lincoln Way. Raley's supermarket is in that vicinity as well. There is a subway at the town Foresthill and a small supermarket before you get to Foresthill. At Michigan Bluff, they'll be selling burgers, hot dogs, sodas, etc. right at the aid staion. There is nothing towards Robinson Flat, Duncan Canyon, Dusty Corner or during the night aid stations, so please plan accordingly.

7. When giving me stuff at the Aid Station, ask me if I have any garbage to give you or if I need more TP (each aid station will have a new TP kit and don't worry, I will not give you the used one). Try to spread out all my stuff on the floor so I can spot if I need anything else. (Don't spread out the stuff inside the first aid kit or blister kit… just put the bags out).

8. Unless I change my shoes or something is going terribly wrong, swapping bottles and stuff should not take more than 3-5 seconds.

9. Don’t wash my water bottles or hydration bladder with anything other than plain water.  Don't remove the bladder fromt he Hydration pack.  Fill it up while it is in the pack and roll the top tightly so it doesn't leak.

10. If I am overheating, try to cool me down quickly. Wring a cold wet sponge or towel on the back of my neck, dunk my headgear in the ice and give it back, place some ziplock bags (also provided for you) with ice under my underarms. The volunteers are desirous of helping, so I may given them my head gear to dunk in cold water.

10. Get me out of the station as soon as you can, even if I want to linger. Push me out.

11. I will try to be around a 24 hour pace for the Duncan Canyon, Robinson Flat, and Dusty Corner Aid Stations, but it's difficult to predict, particularly with the amount of snow this year. You'll just need to arrive there early and wait. You should estimate my time of arrival at each subsequent aid station based on my times as I pass the previous aid stations. There is a list at Michigan Bluff and Foresthill that shows when runners have gone through what aid stations. Based on this, and on the table of 24/30 hour time splits, you'll be able to more or less tell where I am. But I may be much earlier if I am feeling well or much later if I am sucking wind. Sorry, 99% of your time will be spent waiting. Enjoy the race by watching and cheering all the runners. Most runners (except the front runners) are there competing against themselves and the time clock and not against the other runners (on the contrary, we want all runners to get to the finish line). Cheer everyone on!  I don't have the predicted splits for the stations before Duncan Canyon yet (as the course has been changed).

12. At the aid station. First take stuff away from me (garbage, bottles, etc), then give me stuff.

13. Quitting is not an option. Help me get to the finish line no matter what or come see me at the nearest hospital.

Mile 0 - 5am start. Squaw Valley.
Those who want to enjoy the excitement of the start should attend but prepare yourselves for a very long day. Plan on 45 minute drive from house at Soda Springs to Start. Take I-80 East (towards Reno), Exit 185, 89 South. Right at end of ramp. Continue on 89 South. Right on Squaw Valley Road. Depart house no later than 4:00 am. Jose Eduardo needs to leave immediately after start of race to Duncan Canyon (though you'll wait there for a long time). Mauricio and Lori should leave immediately to Robinson Flat so they don't have to hike too much (if you get there early enough, you get to park all the way to the top, close to aid station). Someone needs to take back my night bag to house (I'm staying at starting line the night before the race).

Mile 24 - Duncan Canyon - Crew Captain: Jose Eduardo
Most important:
1. Give me two hand bottles with very cold Gatorade.
2. If I am dehydrated, I will drink a third cold Gatorade right there.  Have it ready as this is the first thing I would do.
3. Give me contents of Bag.

I will give you my hydration pack.
I will not change shoes at this aid station.
Have blister bags and first aid kit available.
Ask me if I need TP
Dunk my head gear in ice cold water (unless I have asked an aid station volunteer to do so).
Ask me if I want to keep the IT bands and knee bands that I'll have in hydration pack.
Tell me how far behind (or ahead) I am of 24 hour pace.
Drive Back to Dusty Corners

Mile 30 - Robinson Flats - Crew Captains: Mauricio and Lori
Most important
1. Give me two hand bottles with very cold Gatorade.
2. Give me contents of Bag (note that 2 GU's go into bottle pouches).
3. If dehydrated (if my weight is down at this aid station), I will drink a third Gatorade bottle right there.  Have it ready

I will not change shoes at this aid station.
Take from me my bottles prior to aid station (Mauricio should be towards the trail before the aid station and should tell me where Lori is past the official aid station. It will take me a few seconds for the medical check at the official aid station before I get to Lori).
Once I get to where Lori is:
Ask me for my heart monitor and heart monitor watch. I will not need it past Robinson Flats. (I may not even wear this from Squaw).
Dunk my head gear in cold water (unless I have asked an aid station volunteer to do so).
Have blister bags and first aid kit available.
Ask me if I need more TP
Tell me how far behind (or ahead) I am of 24 hour pace.
Get me out of there, don't let me linger.
Drive Back to Foresthill and meet others to go to Michigan Bluff - good place to watch the race unfold. Assist Joseph at Michigan Bluff if necessary.

Mile 38 - Dusty Corners - Crew Captain: Jose Eduardo
Most important:
1. Give me back my Hydration pack with bladder full of ice cold water.  Ok to put some ice in bladder.
2. I may want one cold Gatorade to drink there - have it ready.
3. Put in the Hydration pack pouches the contents of the Bag.

Have blister bags and first aid kit available.
Might or might not change shoes, socks, etc here depending on snow. Spread everything out so I can see it all and change quickly.
Take from me my bottles and garbage.
Dunk my head gear in cold water (unless I have asked an aid station volunteer to do so).
Tell me how far behind (or ahead) I am of 24 hour pace.
Drive to Foreshill and meet others to go to Michigan Bluff.

Mile 56 - Michigan Bluff - Crew Captain: Joseph
Most important:
1. Give me 2 hand held bottles with cold Gatorade
2. If I am dehydrated, I will drink a third Gatorade bottle there, have it ready.
3. Give me contents of Bag
4. Joseph to Run/Walk with me to the entrance of the trail

Have blister bags / first aid available, but unlikely to do anything until Foresthill.
Dunk my head gear in cold water (unless I have asked an aid station volunteer to do so).
Tell me how far behind (or ahead) I am of 24 hour pace.
Ask me if there is anything in particular I will need at Foresthill (Gatorade, Water with Propel, or Heed in bottles; change of shoes, etc)
If I don't feel well, I'll take my blood and give you two test cartridges to take to medical tent there for testing.  You'll relay the results to me back in Foresthill.
Drive immediately to Foresthill - don't waste time

Mile 60.6 Bottom of Bath Road
Joe meets me at the bottom of Bath Road with one hand-held bottle with ice cold Gatorade, one salt tablet and 1/2 caffeine tablet. I give him my empty bottles. Runs ahead of me (after pushing me to the top) to relay instructions to Trish at Foresthill if necessary and let her know I am about to arrive (Joe to ask me if I want water with propel or Gatorade in my bottles). Jose Eduardo picks me up at the top of Bath Road. This is the only aid station where pacer can enter aid station prior to runner.

Mile 61 Top of Bath Road
Jose Eduardo meets me to run to Foresthill and onto California Street if he wants to.

Mile 62 - Foresthill - Crew Captain: Trish
Most Important:
1. Give me Hydration Pack with 2.5 liters of ice cold water and 5 Heeds (shake well)
2. Hydration Pack will be preloaded with everything else I need.
3. Give me one (if late) or two bottles (if plenty of light) with either Gatorade or Water with Propel (ask me at Michigan what I will want or Joe will relay information when he meets me at Bath Road). If it's late I can only take one bottle because I will need to use the other hand for the flashlight. I'll "donate" the bottles to the aid stations along the way (so don't expect them back at Rucky Chucky).
4. Depending on time, put headlamp either on hydration pack's small back pouch or you'll help me secure headlamp to head and just put battery in the small back pouch.

Possible change of shirt (see if I need new bandaids for nipples).
Possible change of shoes, socks, etc
Possible repair of blisters... have blister bags and first aid kit available.
Possible need for big and small roller and tennis ball.
Ask me for garbage and check my pockets (3). All my pockets should be empty (except for Rosary and Contact Lenses) as Hydration pack has everything I will need.
If late, remove my visor too, but leave head cover.
Spray legs and clothes with mosquito repellent - but not face.
Give Blister Bags and First Aid kit to Ramiro. (Replace anything I've used from the other kits that Jose Eduardo and Mauricio/Lori will have.  Put in First Aid kit the Knee and IT band from Foresthill bag if not used).
Ramiro/Daniel Depart to next two aid stations. Others can follow if they like hiking.

Mile 78 - Rucky Chucky Far Side - Crew Captain: Ramiro
Crossing will be by boat because of high water level.  When runner arrives to the other side of river, they usually relay that information to this aid station.  So you should know when I am about to arrive.
Most important:
1. Swap Hydration pack.
2. Reconnect battery to headlamp.
3. You should have pre-loaded (except for water so it doesn't get hot) the Hydration pack that I gave to Jose Eduardo at Duncan.  Do this at Foresthill and put the cold water before you hike down to Rucky Chucky.  It should have 2.5 liters of  ice cold water with 5 Heed (shake well).   The pack will also have new flashlight, new battery for headlamp, and everything else from the Bag.
4. Give me one handheld bottle with either Gatorade or Propel. Ask me what I want and prepare it right there and follow me up the trail to give it to me if necessary. If I don't answer, just give me cold water with one propel in the bottle (have it pre-loaded with cold water).

Possible change of shoes, socks, etc.
No need for a chair for me, there are chairs at Rucky Chucky.
Possible blister repair
Possible warmer shell needed (strap behind hydration pack).
Remove my head visor if I still have it (but not the head cover).
I will likely be very tired, desperate, etc by now. Encourage me. Get me out of there.
Hike up the hill with Daniel and drive to Hwy 49 Crossing (at Hwy 49 parking lot, you'll need to pay $10 to park - it's self payment method - see what others are doing).

Mile 93 - Highway 49 Crossing - Crew Captain: Daniel
($10 in bag to pay for self-registration parking).
Most important:
1. Load hydration bladder with 1.25 liters of cold water. Ask me before I enter aid station if I want 2 Propel or 2 Heed  in bladder. Shake well. Or if I want 2 Cold Gatorades (dump water, load Gatorade).
2. Fresh batteries on flash light. Test flash light.
3. Reconnect new battery for headlamp.
4. Put contents of ziplock into hydration pack and empty everything else (except stuff in back pocket).

Go to finish from here (or to No-Hands Bridge and watch from there or to Robie Point and Run/Walk from there to finish).

No Hands Bridge and/or Robie Point
Go there for fun if you want to, but prepare to hike quickly with me from Robie Pt (if I am still strong) to finish line.

Mile 100.2 - Auburn, Placer High School Track: All
Be prepared to cross finish line with me! You will have helped me get there.

Be prepared to pass along Hand Bottles, Hydration Packs, First Aid Kit and Blister Kits or supplement as necessary after Michigan Bluff.

Directions to Aid Stations - Final Draft

Soda Springs to Squaw Valley  -- Allow at least 40 minutes. Take I-80 East (towards Reno), Exit 185, 89 South. Right at end of ramp. Continue on 89 South. Right on Squaw Valley Road to end of road.

Squaw Valley to Robinson Flat -- Allow at least 2½ hours. Take I-80 West. Exit at the Foresthill Exit (Foresthill/Auburn Ravine Rd - Exit 121). Turn left. (Raley's Supermarket is at the corner of Foresthill Road and Lincoln Way. Sierra Grill Dinner is across from Starbucks on Lincoln Way). Follow the Foresthill Highway approximately 17 miles into Foresthill. Continue on this same road approximately 34 more miles to Robinson Flat. A shuttle bus service is provided from the Sailor Flat parking area, approximately four miles south of Robinson Flat.  As you drive from West on I-80 from Squaw Valley to Exit 121, the Western States trail goes along the mountains on your left.  When you turn on Foresthill Highway, this road (thought it appears perpendicular to I-80) is really parallel to I-80 and you are going back towards Squaw Valley on it.  Thus, when turn on Foresthill Highway, the Western States Trail will be on your right.Hope this gives you a sense of direction.

Squaw Valley to Duncan Canyon --Allow 3 hours. Take I-80 West. Exit at the Foresthill Exit (Foresthill/Auburn Ravine Rd). Turn left. Follow the Foresthill Highway approximately 16 miles. Turn right onto Mosquito Ridge Road. Go approximately 23.5 miles, and look for "Road N-44" sign (this is where you will turn on the way back from Duncan Canyon to go to Dusty Corners Aid Station- don't turn now, just keep going on Mosquito Ridge Road towards French Meadows Reservoir). Continue on Mosquito Ridge Road for approximately 9.8 miles.  Aid station will be on your left.  If you have reached French Meadows Reservoir, you have gone 0.5 miles too far. As you drive from West on I-80 from Squaw Valley to Exit 121, the Western States trail goes along the mountains on your left. When you turn on Foresthill Highway, this road (thought it appears perpendicular to I-80) is really parallel to I-80 and you are going back towards Squaw Valley on it. Thus, when turn on Foresthill Highway, the Western States Trail will be on your right. Mosquito Ridge Road and Foresthill Highway form a "V" and the trail runs between them.  The vertex of the V is at Foresthill (where the trail crosses both roads). So, when you are past Foresthill, driving on Mosquito Ridge Road towards Duncan Canyon, the Western States Trail will be on your left. Again, the trail is on the right as you are driving on Foresthill Highway and on the left as you drive on Mosquito Ridge Road. Hope this gives you a sense of direction.

Duncan Canyon to Dusty Corners -- Allow 1 hour. Go back on Mosquito Ridge Road approximately 9.8 miles and look for "Road N-44" sign on your right. This is a VERY steep, winding road; so proceed with caution. Turn right onto Road N-44. This is a chip-seal road for 2 miles that becomes a dirt road. Total distance along N-44 is about 5 miles. Follow this road to the aid station. Do not take the road to Robinson Flat (closed to crews). You must park in designated off-road parking areas only!

Dusty Corners to Michigan Bluff -- Allow 2 hours. Drive back out to Mosquito Ridge Road. Turn right and return to Foresthill. Turn right at the Foresthill Highway. Go approximately 4.5 miles (you will pass Foresthill Elementary School and Bath Road on the right). Turn right on Michigan Bluff Road, and go approximately 3 miles. This is a very steep, winding road; so proceed with caution.  Be prepared to park as far as a mile away from aid station.  Shuttle service will be provided.

Robinson Flat to Michigan Bluff -- Allow 1¼ hours. Go back on the Foresthill Highway, approximately 30 miles. Turn left on Michigan Bluff Road and go approximately three miles. This is a very steep, winding road; so proceed with caution. Be prepared to park as far as a mile away from aid station. Shuttle service will be provided.

Michigan Bluff to Foresthill -- Allow 30-40 minutes. Return to the Foresthill Highway. Turn left. Go approximately 4 miles to Foresthill Elementary School on left (you will pass Bath Road on left about one mile prior to Foresthill Elementary School).

Foresthill to Bath Road -- Walk East on Foresthill Highway (towards Michigan Bluff Road) from the Foreshill Elementary School Aid Station.  Bath Road is on your right in about 1 mile. Bottom of Bath Road is approximately a mile down.

Foresthill to Rucky Chucky (Far):  -- Allow 2 hours. Go back on the Foresthill Highway towards I-80 (approximately 17 miles). Turn left at the signal light (Lincoln Way). Continue along Lincoln Way to the intersection of Highway 49. Turn east (left) onto Highway 49 South and proceed 2 miles down the steep, winding road. Turn right at the first bridge (You will notice No Hands Bridge, a narrow concrete bridge, 200 yards downriver on the right), cross the American River, and proceed uphill for 3.3 miles to Cool (before you get to Cool, you will see a Rock Quarry on the left and a green metal gate across the street from it.  This is the Hwy 49 Crossing Aid Station). From the town of Cool continue south on Highway 49 for 2 more miles to Highway 193. Turn left and travel 6.1 miles to Sliger Mine Road (Lance's Place appears on the right side of the highway). Turn left onto Sliger Mine Road and travel 3.8 miles to where the paved road ends and the dirt road begins; you are not permitted to drive beyond this point. YOU SHOULD NOT PARK IN FRONT OF THE GREY HOUSE ON THE RIGHT SIDE (facing out) OF THE ROAD. From there it is a 1¼ mile hike to the Green Gate aid station and an additional 2 miles to the river. The route is along a steep and uneven dirt road. Wear sensible shoes.

Rucky Chucky (Far Side) to Hwy 49 Crossing: -- Allow 2 hours.  Go back to the town of Cool. Park in the lot on your left just past the Cool Firehouse (at Main Street Pizza and Grill). Shuttle service is provided and will transport crews and pacers to the Hwy 49 Crossing aid station beginning at 6:30 p.m. Absolutely no parking or stopping at the aid station is allowed. The highway and its shoulders are narrow and vehicles are moving very fast. The CHP will be monitoring the aid station; anyone parking or stopping on the shoulder of Hwy. 49 will be ticketed.

On the way from Foresthill towards I-80, look for Old Auburn Foresthill Road on the left (it's before the Foresthill Bridge and it may have a sign that says Cool). Take that left.  It will twist and turn and take you over the American River and it will intersect Hwy 49.  Make a left at Hwy 49 South, over a bridge and from here follow the directions to Rucky Chucky that say .... "cross the American River and proceed uphill for 3.3 miles to Cool...."

Highway 49 to Finish Line -- Allow 30 minutes. Return towards Auburn on Highway 49. Cross the bridge over the American River and make an immediate left. (You can stop here if you want to see me at No-Hands Bridge. It will take me about 40-50 minutes from Hwy 49 to No Hands Bridge). Follow the highway uphill for 2 miles. Continue straight on Highway 49. It will become High Street, heading west. Continue on High Street and turn left onto Agard Street, follow three blocks to Stadium Way and park on right.  The Stadium is on your left.

Robie Point -- From the Finish Line, you can get to Robie Point by following the glow sticks and yellow markers (going against the runners).  It's about 1.3 miles from the Finish Line to Robbie Point.  Robie Point is where runners emerge from the canyons and transition to the paved Road that takes them to the Stadium.

Accommodations 23rd - 25th:
All - Home at Soda Springs, CA

Hotel Accommodations for 26th and 27th:
Jose Eduardo: Holiday Inn, Auburn, 120 Grass Valley Highway (behind In and Out Burger)
Mauricio and Lori: Holiday Inn, Auburn, 120 Grass Valley Highway (behind In and Out Burger)
Joseph and Trish: Holiday Inn, Auburn, 120 Grass Valley Highway (behind In and Out Burger)
Ramiro and Daniel: Comfort Inn, Auburn, 1875 Auburn Ravine
Joe: Comfort Inn, Auburn, 1875 Auburn Ravine

Miles 96 to 98

The bridge at a distance (upper right not the one in the center) is No Hands Bridge. This bridge is at mile 97 of the race. The trail leading from it towards the back takes runners to the finish at Auburn,CA. You'll see a road above that trail. That's Hwy 49 which goes to Auburn.

During race day, No Hands Bridge is decorated with lights at night. Your crew gets to see it as they make their way to the Green Gate (mile 80) and Hwy 49 Crossing (mile 93) Aid Stations, and again as they return along Hwy 49 to the finish line.

From mile 92 to mile 98, the trail follows more or less Hwy 49 but over the mountains. The patch of dirt without trees forming an inverted "U" that you see towards the center of the picture has two parallel trails.  One of them is the Western States trail that is coming down from the mountain parallel to Hwy 49 towards No Hands Bridge.  You'll notice that Hwy 49 makes a squiggly L shape as it borders the mountain and then turns left (turn is hidden by the other mountain) towards Auburn.  The other road (and bridge) you see is Old Foresthill Auburn Road which is a shortcut to/from Foresthill.  It intersects Hwy 49 around No Hands Bridge.

You can (and should) see this view from yet another bridge (where I was standing) about a mile after you exit I-80 towards Foresthill. This is the Foresthill Bridge (you can see the picture here taken from No Hands Bridge), the tallest bridge in the State of California.  Pull over to the right immediately after Foresthill Bridge (you can't miss it) and walk back towards the middle of the bridge and look west. This view is one of my favorites.

I'm including a map here to make it easier to navigate.


Taper Week 3
Saturday, June 5th:  Last relatively long run, 27 miles, Michigan Bluff to Last Chance and Back. About 6 hours.
Sunday, June 6th:  Off
Monday, June 7th:  90 minutes, fast, up and down Between the Lakes hill at Lake.
Tuesday, June 8th:  90 minutes, up and down Between the Lakes hill wtih 8 25 second strides after 60 minutes. 1 hr Sauna at 150. 20 minutes bike.  60+ minutes strengh training.
Wednesday, June 9th: 60 minutes, 40 min of it at LT 7% incline 6.7 pace - tredmill with heavy clothing for heat.  40 minutes of core.
Thursday, June 10th: 77 minutes -track (4 x 1000m @ 4:03.  Could have done more but felt a small twinge on calf, so didn't push it).  20 minutes bike.  1 hour strength training. 1 hr Sauna at 150.
Friday, June 11th: Off

Taper Week 2 (penultimate week):
Saturday, June 12th: 90 minutes, downhill/uphill - short hill.  Hard.
Sundaty, June 13th: 120 minutes on Soda Springs Road.  Fast run.  Ran all hills.  Felt great. 2 hour at gym.  1 hour Sauna between 170- 180 degrees. 20 minutes stationary bike.
Monday, June 14th: Off - 90 minutes Sauna 160-180.
Tuesday, June 15th: 60 minutes at Track 1000m x 5 times under 4 minutes with 3 minutes rest in between.  30 minutes Core at Gym. 20 minutes stationary bike. 90 Minutes Sauna
Wednesday, June 16th:  60 minutes with 20 at LT (6.7 pace at 7% incline). 90 Minutes Sauna.  No Strength Traning (I injured my back yesterday, so I'm trying to recover).
Thursday, June 17th: Off.  120 minutes Sauna (2 x 60 minute sessions). 30 Minutes of Massage torture on my piriformis.
Friday, June 18th: 60 minutes. 15 minutes warm-up, 30 minutes increasing spead to Marathon Pace last 10 minutes.  15 minutes cool-down. 20 minutes of stretching. 105 Minutes Sauna.

Taper Week 1 (last week):
Saturday, June 19th:  60 minutes easy. 100 minutes in Sauna. Stretching.
Sunday, June 20th:  Off. 30 minutes stretching.  100 minutes in Sauna. Stretching.
Monday, June 21st:  30 minutes, millde 10 fast. 100 minutes in Sauna. 90 min Massage.  Stretching
Tuesday, June 22nd  30 minutes. 8 minutes at Marathon Pace. No Sauna. 90 min Massage. Stretching.
Wednesday, June 23rd - Off. 60 min Massage (piriformis). Mostly Bagels and Salmon diet.
Thursday, June 24th - Off. 90 min Massage (easy). Low residue diet.
Friday, June 25th - Off. Liquid diet.
Saturday, June 26th - Race Day

Bake at 160-180 F at 7000 feet for 90 to 120 minutes or until tender

I think it's a good thing that I'm by myself here in Soda Springs, California.

The house I rented at 7,000 feet of altitude has a dry sauna.  This allows me to get altitude and heat acclimated all in one shot. But now that I am also working on repairing my injured piriformis (a muscle in the buttocks), the arrangement is becoming even more efficient (and, to me, comical).

I figured it would be quite efficient if I used the 90 to 120 minutes of baking time in the sauna (at 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit) to massage my piriformis with a hard tennis ball.  The process goes something like this:

As the entire weight of my body begins to roll perfectly balanced on a small tennis ball strategically placed right under the painful knot of my piriformis, the screams become inevitable . After about 30 minutes of sweating profusely from the heat and the pain (don't know from which one more), I place my buttock under freezing cold water (I guess it must come straight from the snow melt) and proceed, once again, to scream from the cold.

I repeat the process two or three times until I am fully baked or have a very tender ass.

If my wife were here, she would throw me out of the house!

Preparing the Chamber of Torture

In the Chamber of Torture after 1 hr

One lap too many

A couple of days ago, I did one 1,000-meter repeat too many as part of my tapering and ended up injuring my piriformis muscle.  Apparently, this is a muscle deep inside the buttocks that when inflamed also constricts the sciatic nerve causing a symptom similar to sciatica.

With the pain still persisting after two days, I decided to visit today a local Extreme Sports Massage therapist who works on many Western State runners.  Let's just say that I almost cried.  OMG.  He applied so much pressure to the muscle deep inside my buttock with his elbow that I literally stopped breathing expecting his elbow to come through the other side of me somehow. I later found out that Extreme wasn't meant to modify "Sports" but "Massage". 

Good pain training for Western States. I really don't mind the pain so much (I've gotten used to pain), but the muscle appears to be in some sort of spasm, and this in turn radiates throughout my lower back and restricts my flexibility.

I do feel better after the session, but the pain is still there. I'm visiting him again in 4 days (that will be four days before the race). 

I'll get it fixed somehow, even if I have to have Trish walk on my butt with her high heel shoes.

I'm icing it too; here is a picture of that for kicks.